He was lucky to survive execution by Russian soldiers: a Ukrainian has told how the invaders apparently mistreated him and killed his brothers.

The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine has been going on for a good two and a half months, and Russian war crimes that shock the world are becoming known again and again. Putin’s soldiers apparently do not shy away from brutal violence against civilians. Mykola Kulichenko, a Ukrainian from near Chernihiv in the north of the country, told US broadcaster CNN, among others, how badly he was tortured.

The 33-year-old lived with his two brothers and sister in a village that was occupied by the Russians shortly after the start of the war. At first everything remained largely calm, but when there was an attack on a Russian column, soldiers blamed Kulichenko and his brothers for it. During a house search, the Russians found the grandfather’s old military medals and an army backpack belonging to one of the brothers, who used to be in the paratroopers. Apparently that was enough to brutally abuse the men.

Ukraine War: Russians execute brothers

He was interrogated for three days, and the torture began on the fourth day, Mykola Kulichenko told CNN: “They beat me all over my body with a metal rod and put the barrel of a pistol in my mouth.” The soldiers tortured him until he passed out. The brothers were then blindfolded, tied up, and driven to a deserted area by the invaders. There they had to kneel while the soldiers dug their graves.

Kulichenko witnessed his two brothers being shot from behind. Blindfolded, all he heard was the shots and felt the bodies fall to the ground beside him. Then it was his turn: the bullet entered his left cheek and exited near his right ear. Apparently the Russian soldiers had carried out the execution imprecisely, that was Kulichenko’s luck: his only chance of survival was to play dead, he explained.

The three men were provisionally buried by the soldiers. Kulichenko said he didn’t know how long he lay next to his dead brothers, under his older brother’s corpse, before he managed to free himself with his hands and feet tied. “I could hardly breathe because Dmytro was on top of me, but with my arms and knees I was able to push my brother aside and climb out.”

Brutal war crimes

In the darkness he found his way to the nearest house, where a woman picked him up. He later made his way home, where his sister was completely distraught over the disappearance of the three brothers. When asked where the others were, Mykola Kulichenko simply replied: “There are no others.”

The history of the Kulichenko family is far from unique in the area. In early April, the Russian troops withdrew after five weeks. Investigators found more than 600 fresh graves. The case of Mykola Kulichenko’s brothers was also investigated: The investigators responsible examined the makeshift grave and, according to CNN, confirmed that the men were tied up and blindfolded. Mykola Kulichenko was able to give his brothers a proper burial about a month after the day he shouldn’t have survived.

Source: CNN / “Wall Street Journal” / “Suspilne Novyny”