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“Their Faces Were Mutilated as if They Were Chopped”: Russians Tortured and Killed Two Civilians in Mykolaiv Region

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Serhiy Kuchereshko would have turned 46 on June 23. The man lived in Novofontanka, a tiny village between Mykolaiv and Bashtanka, which, like many other settlements of the Mykolaiv Region, was occupied by Russians in early March. They did not hold there for even a few weeks, but this time was enough to turn the life of the village into hell on earth. Kuchereshko lived alone, in 2014 he served in the ATO, and after that, he worked on his farm cultivating the land and caring for bees. On March 8, the invaders killed him.

Liudmyla Nikolayenko, the head of Kashpero-Mykolaivka Starosta District of the Bashtanka District, which includes Novofontanka, said that the first groups of invaders appeared here in the evening of March 5. Several fights took place in and around the settlement:

On March 5, Russian helicopters flew into the territory of the district. A plane fired six missiles after some time. A local resident died in Kashpero-Mykolaivka, and houses were destroyed. In the evening, columns of the Rashists were on their way. They arrived here In the morning. The “orcs” lived in the club, the starosta hall, the school, the outpatient clinic, and occupied the administrative buildings”.


On March 14, thanks to the successful actions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the Russians were driven out of there. But they left behind a lot of “memories:

We had a beautiful school, beautifully renovated, an absolute dream come true. When I went there on the 14th, I was just horrified. All digital equipment was stolen, and everything was broken and smashed. We were very lucky that we were saved by the [Ukrainian] Armed Forces. If the invaders had stayed here longer, I do not know what would have happened to our people. Just look at they did to Serhiy,” said Nikolayenko.

Video from Tetiana Vynychuk’s Facebook page

Serhiy’s sister, Tetiana Kuchereshko, said that her brother was killed on March 8, on the third day of the occupation. The events leading up to this were horrendous and degrading.

My husband and I were collecting firewood when my brother called and said that the columns were coming. We grabbed a bottle of water, some of our things, and ran to the ditch where the cellar used to be. That’s where we stayed. When they came to the village in the evening, they started checking people, their phones, some were taken toward the column. They took my brother to the column, but let him go on the first day,” said Tetiana.

The next day, they came for Serhiy again. Tetiana, who lives on the same street, saw several armored vehicles drive up to her brother’s yard. Russian “visitors” also paid a visit to the house where she lives with her husband. 

Six people came to us. They demanded our documents and phones. My husband did not have a SIM card because of a technical problem, and I took it out of my phone and hid it, I did not want to confess. They said if we do not find the SIM card in five minutes, we will go to the ravine”, the woman said.

At some point, the Russians left her house and went to Serhiy’s. The woman heard shots coming from her brother’s yard. 

We got on the floor in the kitchen and lay there for about 15 minutes while the shots were fired,” said Tetiana.

When it was over, Tetiana and her husband went to their brother’s house. There they saw the locks torn out, the house destroyed and outbuildings burning. The Russians even shot an old motorcycle, which Serhiy used to go to the village to shop. But Serhiy himself was nowhere to be found. It was only a day later that she learned about her brother.

On March 9, a man came running, not a local, he was passing by, delivering something to the shops. He and his companion, a 30-year-old guy, who was a sailor and was returning home to the Kherson Region, were detained on the highway, and their car was shot at,” said Tetiana. 

The man managed to escape, but he said that the Russians killed both his fellow traveler and Serhiy. Their bodies, according to the man, remained in a pit near the ravine. 

“Serhiy’s parents died early, he was left alone. He was hardworking, intelligent, and served in the ATO zone,” said Liudmyla Nikolayenko.

The bodies of Serhiy Kuchereshko and the second murdered man were exhumed only in May. Tetiana said that law enforcement officers warned against interference because they had to conduct the necessary investigative actions. In the process, it turned out that both men had been tortured.

Their faces were mutilated, as if they had been chopped with something. There were cuts on Serhiy’s ears, bullet holes. The other one, the sailor, had his legs tied and was missing nails on his fingers. He had knife wounds in addition to gunshot wounds,” Kuchereshko said.  

Serhiy was buried in Novofontanka on May 13. Tetiana is now waiting for the results of the investigation launched by the Bashtanka District Prosecutor’s Office on the fact of violation of the laws and customs of war (Article 438 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine). According to the prosecutor’s office, traces of the Russian military were found near the grave of the men, in particular remnants of a typical army ration. As of now, the case is scheduled for forensic examinations.

Anastasiya Zubova

This article was created by Bihus.Info as part of the project “EU Urgent Support for Civil Society” implemented by ISAR Ednannia with the financial support of the European Union. The content of the article is the sole responsibility of Bihus.Info and does not necessarily reflect the position of the European Union.

 

On September 27, the Ukrainian army liberated the village of Kupiansk-Vuzlovyi, Kharkiv Region, which had been under Russian occupation for six months. After the Ukrainian flag was raised in the settlement, law enforcement officers found the bodies of two tortured men in a brick-making shop. One of the victims had bruises on the neck and chest, the other had bullet wounds to his chest and groin, as well as a broken skull. It is not the only Russian war crime committed there, however. 

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