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Ukrainian villagers count the dead after weeks of being confined in a school basement


The names of the dead are scrawled on the peeling wall of a school basement the place residents say greater than 300 individuals had been trapped for weeks by Russian occupiers in Yahidne, a village north of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.

Halyna Tolochina (pictured above), a member of the village council, struggled to compose herself as she went by way of the record, scribbled in black on the plaster of a inexperienced door, in the gloomy warren the place she stated she and a whole bunch of others had been confined.

To the left of the door had been scrawled the seven names of individuals killed by Russian troopers. To the proper had been the 10 names of individuals who died as a result of of the harsh circumstances in the basement, she stated.

“This old man died first,” Tolochina stated, pointing at the identify of Muzyka D., for Dmytro Muzyka, whose dying was recorded on March 9. “He died in the big room, in this one.”

She stated Muzyka’s physique lay for a few days in a boiler room till, throughout a break in shelling, some individuals had been allowed to take the dead to be buried in unexpectedly dug graves in the village cemetery.

Reuters spoke to seven residents of Yahidne who stated that, in complete, at the very least 20 individuals died or had been killed throughout the Russian occupation. No official dying toll has been launched by Ukrainian authorities.

Reuters was not in a position to confirm independently the villagers’ accounts. Reporters noticed one freshly dug grave in a subject by the village and two our bodies wrapped in white plastic sheets.

The Kremlin didn’t reply to requests for touch upon the occasions in Yahidne.

The accounts of what occurred in the village add to rising testimony from Ukrainian civilians of struggling in the cities round Kyiv throughout the weeks of occupation by Russian forces following the invasion launched on Feb. 24.

The final sufferer recorded on the partitions of the basement, Nadiya Budchenko, died on March 28, Tolochina stated, two days earlier than Russian troops withdrew from the village when their drive towards the Ukrainian capital stalled.

In addition to these, principally aged, who died of exhaustion in the stifling, cramped circumstances, Tolochina named others she stated had been killed by Russian troopers, together with Viktor Shevchenko and his brother Anatolii, referred to as Tolya.

“This one was buried in the yard,” she stated, pointing to the identify Shevchenko V. “And this one, they said he is there (buried in the village), somewhere,” she stated, pointing to the identify Shevchenko T, whose physique has not been recovered.

Reuters interviewed six different residents, who corroborated Tolochina’s account and described being held in the naked concrete rooms of the basement, with round 60 kids, little meals or water, no electrical energy and no bathrooms.

Ukrainian authorities have accused Russia of conflict crimes, following the unearthing of mass graves in cities round Kyiv, corresponding to Bucha and Motyzhyn, and the discovery of our bodies whose fingers had been tied and shot in the head.

Russia has denied allegations of extra-judicial killings, torture and abuse of civilians.

The Kremlin has stated its forces aren’t focusing on civilians and accused Ukrainian authorities and the West of fabricating proof.

LOOTING

Two of the villagers interviewed by Reuters stated that at the beginning some Russian troops, which arrived in early March, behaved nicely, providing to share their rations and expressing shock at the village’s affluent look. However others started to loot instantly.

“They started looting, took everything they could grab,” stated 71-year previous Petro Hlystun, who witnessed the scene. “There was a light torch, a tablet computer my son brought from Poland. They took it all.”

On March 5, the villagers stated they had been ordered into the school basement the place they had been to spend the subsequent 25 days, with solely transient breaks to alleviate themselves or stretch their legs.

The Russian troopers instructed them the confinement was for their very own safety, the villagers stated.

They described sharing buckets for a rest room and taking turns to sleep in the small, crowded rooms as there was not sufficient house for everybody to lie down.

“It was almost impossible to breathe,” stated Olha Meniaylo, an agronomist who stated she was in the basement along with her 32-year-old son, his spouse and their kids — a 4-month-old child boy and an 11-year-old lady.

She stated the Russian troopers demanded a record of the individuals in the basement to prepare meals and he or she had tallied 360. Two different villagers stated there have been greater than 300 individuals.

“For the elderly, it was difficult to stay there in the dark without fresh air, so it was mostly the old who died,” she stated.

She stated that the first burial — a man killed by the troopers and 4 aged individuals who died in the basement — passed off on March 12. Russian troopers allowed out some youths to dig shallow graves.

“As soon as they started digging, there was shelling,” Meniaylo stated. “The people who were doing the digging had to lie on the dead bodies in the graves to protect themselves from the shelling. My husband was there.”

A girl who had a cow was led underneath escort one morning to get some milk for the kids. Others had been let loose sometimes based on the whims of the Russian troopers. Once they returned to their houses, villagers discovered the whole lot from tv units to girls’s underwear had been taken.

BODIES EXHUMED

It was not till the Russians began their withdrawal on March 30 that these trapped in the basement ventured out completely, stated 64-year-old Tamara Klymchuk.

“We opened the door. We were getting out as though we had been born again,” stated Klymchuk.

Yahidne, a small farming village of simply 5 streets, had been a common place for metropolis individuals from close by Chernihiv to take a vacation cottage. It’s now a desolate damage of burned-out homes scattered with cast-off army gear.

An deserted tank stands hid throughout the street from the school. Ukrainian army, police and explosive disposal technicians sift by way of the wreckage, exhuming our bodies and recovering unexploded ammunition.

“We had a very good life,” stated Klymchuk, whose son-in-law was 50-year-old Viktor Shevchenko, one of the two brothers who villagers say had been killed by Russian troopers. “We never thought such grief would come upon us.”

Viktor, she stated, was shot on March 3. He had stayed behind to protect his home after sending his spouse and two kids to the school basement.

Russian troopers had instructed the villagers that Viktor had been carrying a army uniform and was armed with a shotgun.

Klymchuk didn’t witness the killing herself however stated she noticed Viktor’s physique after sappers exhumed his physique from a mass grave at her request as soon as the city was retaken by Ukrainian forces. He was dressed in blue denims and a black jacket, she stated.

“They just shot him in the head.”



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