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Six executions. Stories of civilians killed by Russian military in Dmytrivka community in Chernihiv Oblast

Monday, 17 June 2024, 17:30
Сollage: Ukrainska Pravda

Before Russia's full-scale attack on Ukraine on 24 February 2022, it was hardly possible to imagine what kind of war this would be and where civilians would be in danger. It was impossible to imagine that in the 21st century, heavily armed Russian soldiers would shoot defenceless villagers dead.

This is the story of Dmytrivka hromada, located in the south of Chernihiv Oblast [a hromada is an administrative unit designating a city, town, or village and its adjacent territory - ed.]. The Russian military passed through the hromada’s villages for the first time on 25 February 2022.

There was not even an occupation in the usual sense: when the enemy stops in settlements, establishes its power, and raises flags. The Russians were mostly in transit here. And at first, they did not touch civilians. But after receiving resistance from the Ukrainian military, the Russians turned the last two weeks of fighting for the north of Ukraine into terror for the local civilians: villages were attacked and people were killed.


On 15 March, a car carrying farm workers was shot at. A week later, a man with mental disorders was killed. A week later, a local resident was shot dead, and the next day, his elderly mother was killed. And on the day of the retreat from the hromada, 1 April, the Russian military captured three men, released one, and shot six bullets at the other two. 

Who were the people killed by the Russian military? Nataliia Naidiuk, the author of the Memorial, recorded these stories directly at the scene of the events, two years after they happened.

The text was prepared by the Memorial memory platform, which tells the stories of civilians killed by Russia and the fallen Ukrainian military. To report information about your losses, please fill out the forms about killed military and civilians

Anatolii Uhlach was shot on his way home from work

Anatolii Uhlach
All photos provided by the author of the article

Anatolii Uhlach, 58, became the first civilian to be killed in Dmytrivka hromada. On 15 March 2022, he and his colleagues were returning home from the village of Hryhorivka, where he worked. Near the village of Haivoron, a car carrying employees was shot by the Russian military.

"I was at home. I thought that it was time for my husband to come home, but he was not there. Then I got a call saying that the car carrying him had been shot. But then I was told that everyone was alive. I got on my bike and went to hospital. There were people standing there... My husband was lying in the car... The next day, he was buried in the cemetery in Dmytrivka. My son was already serving in the military, so he came to his father's grave only after the liberation of the oblast," said Valentyna, the wife of the deceased.

Anatolii Uhlach was born in the village of Dmytrivka. After school, he studied in Kyiv to become a power plant equipment maintenance technician. For many years, he worked in Kyiv in his specialty. Most recently, he worked at a pig farm in a village near Dmytrivka.

"My husband was a good man. He dreamed of an ordinary, simple life. He wanted to see his grandchildren, and he was worried about his children. It is very hard for us to live without him," Valentyna said.

Petro Kovalivskyi was killed while riding a bicycle

Petro Kovalivskyi

Petro Kovalivskyi was 62 years old. On 22 March 2022, he was cycling from the village of Holinka and came across a convoy of Russian soldiers. The occupiers shot the man dead...

Petro Kovalivskyi was born in the village of Holinka. He studied in the city of Nizhyn. He worked at a factory and served in the military. He got married and had children. But his family life did not work out. Petro got a divorce. He lived in the village. His mental illnesses worsened and he was registered as disabled. 

"On 21 March 2022, my uncle left home and never returned. I started posting his photo on Facebook in case someone saw him. And then the village head received a call from Haivoron that someone was lying on the side of the road," said Viktoriia, the niece of the deceased.

The next day, at 05:00, village head Natalia Vernyhora and her fellow villagers went to pick up the body. Petro Kovalivskyi was buried in his native village. 

"He was calm, and he didn't bother anyone. He liked to ride his bicycle around the village, and it was his favourite pastime. He used to play the accordion. He was a very kind and hardworking man. Even though he was ill, he helped his mother and sister with everything around the house, such as fetching water and chopping wood. We miss him," said Viktoriia.

Volodymyr Neskuba was shot dead when he was trying to cross the road. His mother Halyna was killed the next day

Volodymyr Neskuba

Volodymyr was 52 years old. He and his mother Halyna lived in a house along the road. After the start of the full-scale war, Russian vehicles often passed by there. 

On 29 March, Volodymyr went to his neighbour's house to help with household chores. And when he was about to return home, a Russian convoy started moving. He waited until the occupiers passed and then wanted to cross the road. But suddenly, an APC (armoured personnel carrier) drove out from somewhere. It started shooting. The bullets were large-calibre. Volodymyr was heavily wounded and died. He was buried in the cemetery in Holinka.  

Halyna Neskuba, an 82-year-old mother of Volodymyr, was shot dead by the Russian military the next day, on 30 March 2022. She had probably come to the window or was passing by when the Russian military drove by. One of them fired at and shot Halyna in the head. 

Halyna Neskuba

Village head Natalia Vernyhora came to the house of the Neskuba family with a paramedic when Halyna's relatives called her to check if she was okay. The woman was not answering the phone. Halyna was found dead. She was lying on the floor with a bullet hole in her window.

Halyna Neskuba was born in Irkutsk Oblast (Russia). Her father was a military officer. The family moved around a lot. They lived in Georgia and in Ukraine, in the city of Odesa and in Kyiv Oblast. 

As an adult, Halyna moved to Donetsk Oblast, where she worked at a mine. It was there that she met her future husband, who was also a miner. The couple had two sons.

When Halyna's husband retired, the family moved to the village of Holinka in Chernihiv Oblast. This is where he was originally from. Halyna worked on the farm here for some time. 

"My grandmother loved us very much. She was very kind and never had any conflicts with anyone. In recent years, she was engaged in housekeeping. She grew flowers," said Oleksii, the grandson of the deceased.

Volodymyr Neskuba was a welder. For some time, he worked as a miner. Later, he moved to Holinka to live with his parents, helped them with household chores, and sometimes went to work. After his father's death, he lived with his mother.

"My father's life was not easy. But despite everything, he was a good man, and he tried to take care of me and his parents. He was very fond of music. He loved animals. I lived with them in the village almost from birth until I was 10 years old. All this time, my dad and grandparents were raising me," says Oleksii, the son of the deceased. 

Volodymyr’s fellow villagers remember him as a calm and friendly man.

Captured and shot dead a few hours before Russian troops left the village: stories of neighbours Mykola Sydorenko and Bohdan Tkachenko

Mykola Sydorenko

Mykola Sydorenko was 53 years old. He was shot dead by the Russian occupiers on 1 April 2022 in the village of Haivoron. 

"Before they left, the occupiers stopped by my brother's yard, so Mykola did not go home and spent the night in his neighbours' cellar. And the next day, he, Bohdan Tkachenko and another neighbour were running away for some reason. They were spotted through night vision devices and captured. They were kept in the cellar. Then one neighbour was released, and Mykola and Bohdan were shot dead. That's what people who live in Haivoron told me," said Mykola's sister Valentyna.

Mykola Sydorenko was born in the village of Ponory in Chernihiv Oblast. Later, the family moved to Haivoron. Here, Mykola finished school and went to study to become a tractor driver in the village of Hryhorivka. He worked in his specialty and was also a driver at the fire station. 

In 2018, he signed a contract with the Armed Forces and fought in the east of Ukraine. Eight months before the start of the full-scale Russian invasion, he resigned from the army due to health issues: he had diabetes and hearing problems. Mykola also changed psychologically: he reacted very sharply to any manifestations of injustice.

"At the contact line, it was hard for him, and he caught a bad cold and couldn't hear in his right ear. He spent a lot of time in hospitals... It was so hard to go through that war, to survive, to come back, and now to be killed... Three hours after that, the Russians left the village. It's a pity that it happened like this, and I miss my brother very much," Valentyna said.

Bohdan Tkachenko

Mykola's neighbour Bohdan Tkachenko was 28 years old. After school, he studied at the Konotop Railway Vocational School. He worked as a foreman at Ukrzaliznytsia (Ukrainian Railways). In his free time, he visited his parents and loved to hunt and fish.

"My brother was an ordinary, calm guy. He dreamed of his own family and had a girlfriend. The last time I saw him was in late March, two to three days before his death. I left the area. In recent days, Russian troops have been shooting everything here, destroying it, and capturing people... I found out about the deaths of Bohdan and Mykola the next day... We miss him very much," said Inna, the sister of the deceased.

Results of the investigation

Kyrylo Puhachov, Head of the Department for Combating Crimes Committed in the Context of Armed Conflict of Chernihiv Oblast Prosecutor's Office, said:

"We have a court verdict on the shooting of Mykola Sydorenko and Bohdan Tkachenko. It has already entered into force. The Russian serviceman who killed these men was sentenced to life in absentia."

It is about Sergei Agafonov, a soldier of the 21st Separate Motorised Rifle Brigade of the 2nd Combined Arms Army of the Central Military District of the Russian Federation. He was identified in a photograph by the third prisoner who was released.

As for the other murders, the prosecutor said that criminal proceedings have been opened, and law enforcement officers are investigating the circumstances.

Kyrylo Puhachov, Head of the Department for Combating Crimes Committed in the Context of Armed Conflict of Chernihiv Oblast Prosecutor's Office

"We understand who could have been there. These are units of the 2nd Combined Arms Army of the Central Military District of the Russian Federation Armed Forces. But they were in transit, so it is difficult to investigate which ones were involved in the crimes and even more difficult to identify specific soldiers," explained Kyrylo Puhachov. 

Moving on and remembering

For the past two years, the hromada has been recovering from the invasion. During this time, a local farmer has restored the bridge in Haivoron and rebuilt other damaged buildings. There are many funds in the hromada to recover and support people. In turn, the local authorities have adopted a programme to support the families of the fallen soldiers and civilians. They also provide financial support to wounded soldiers and the families of those who went missing or were captured by the Russians.

Memory corners are being set up in the villages where the deceased were killed to preserve and pass on to later generations the memories of the difficult spring of 2022.

Editing: Anastasiia Kolesnykova