Russian soldiers fired on two unarmed civilians as they walked away after an encounter on the outskirts of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv.
CNN has obtained surveillance video of what is currently being investigated as a war crime by Ukrainian prosecutors.
The two civilians died after the heartless shooting which goes against the so-called rules of war that prohibit the targeting of civilians. CNN has identified the victims. One was the owner of the vehicle dealership that was looted, whose family does not want to be named. The other was Leonid Oleksiyovych Plyats, a 68-year-old grandfather who worked there as a caretaker.
His daughter, Yulia, can’t stand to watch the video of the day her father died, but she’s saving it to show her children one day, so they won’t forget how savage the invaders were.
“They are executioners,” she told CNN. “It’s awful because my father was a civilian, he was 68, a peaceful, unarmed man.”
Kill taken from multiple angles
Security camera footage captures the first Russian attempt to take kyiv in March. On the main road to the capital, fighting was fierce as Ukrainian forces battled Russian troops and tankers to halt the advance.
But what happened outside the car dealership on March 16 was not a battle between soldiers or even soldiers and armed civilians.
The video has been verified by CNN. It’s compiled from a number of cameras around the property and, although it has no sound, its footage is clear. It was a cowardly, cold-blooded murder of two unarmed men.
Five Russian soldiers arrive and attempt to break into the businesses, pulling on locks and breaking windows.
As the owner approaches with his hands raised, they stop him and appear to be looking for him for weapons. Plyats then arrives and is also searched. There appears to be a conversation before the soldiers turn away and the two civilians begin to walk towards their guard post.
Then at least two of the soldiers come up behind the men and open fire. The two civilians drop to the ground.
CNN asked the Russian Defense Ministry for comment but did not hear back.
A top Ukrainian prosecutor said the incident was being investigated as a war crime after viewing video obtained by CNN.
In addition to the killing, the video shows much more unprofessional behavior from the group of five soldiers, identified as members of the invasion force by their uniforms, analysis of who controlled which area at the time and witness statements .
The men are seen inside the dealership removing their body armor and looking through drawers and desks. A man grabs a bobble hat from a shelf and puts it on. Two men have a drink and apparently toast each other.
The grandfather tried to save himself
While the soldiers ransacked the businesses, Plyats was still alive. The video shows him getting back to his feet, tying what looks like a tourniquet around his thigh, and returning to his guard post.
There he gets a phone to call for help.
This appeal went to his compatriots, more Ukrainian citizens who remained to defend their neighborhoods.
The ragtag force of volunteers tried to rescue Plyats, trading fire with Russian forces as they struggled to reach him, said the group’s commander, who did not want to be identified to protect his safety.
Surveillance footage shows Plyats slumped inside the guards’ hut as the Ukrainians move towards him. They dragged him outside, leaving a large swath of blood. He died there outside the guards’ hut. The commander said it collapsed as the civilian fighters were initially expected to retreat, they simply did not have the firepower to deal with the tanks and guns the Russians had in the area.
The civilian commander said Plyats and the dealership owner were warned the Russians were closing in but chose to stay. Plyats’ daughter said he believed in doing his duty, so he went to work. Neither man seemed to have any idea how they would be treated when approaching the soldiers.
The volunteer fighter said what happened generated hatred towards Russian soldiers who killed for no reason and others like them.
“It’s a war crime for sure,” he said. “If there is a possibility of reaching them and catching them, I think they deserve the death penalty.”
Plyats’ daughter requested that her remains be cremated, as a proper burial was impossible amid the fighting. Her ashes are still waiting for her in the morgue and she hopes to be able to bury them in her mother’s grave one day. All she can do now is remember her “very happy” father and hope for some measure of justice.
“They must be tried,” she said of her killers. “I hope for an international tribunal. I hope that not only Ukraine but the whole world will learn of their crimes.