Ukrainian village chief and family found buried in shallow grave


MOTYZHYN, Ukraine, April 4 (Reuters) – The village chief of Motyzhyn, her husband and son were shot dead and buried in a shallow grave, an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said on Monday, showing their bodies partially covered in sand. .

Since Russian troops withdrew from towns and villages around the Ukrainian capital Kyiv last week, Ukrainian troops have been on the move, showing reporters dead bodies of what they say are civilians killed by Russian forces, destroyed houses and burnt cars.

Reuters could not independently verify who killed the family in the grave just outside Motyzhyn, about 45 km (28 miles) west of kyiv. Moscow has denied targeting civilians and said similar reports of killings were “staged” to smear Russia’s name. Read more

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“There were Russian occupiers here. They tortured and murdered the whole family of the village headman,” Anton Herashchenko said, citing those killed as Olha Sukhenko, her husband Ihor Sukhenko and their 25-year-old son Oleksandr.

“The occupiers suspected that they were collaborating with our military, telling us where to target our artillery. These scum tortured, massacred and killed the whole family. They will be responsible for it.”

A Reuters reporter saw the bodies in a forest near a farmhouse, which had been virtually destroyed, just outside the village of Motyzhyn. Nearby, a burnt-out tractor could be seen and one of those buried in the sand had its head registered.

The reporter also saw another body of a man in a pit near the burnt-out farmhouse, where black scorch marks climbed up its few remaining walls. He looked like he had been tied up.

Daria Belenitsyna, who identified herself as Oleksandr Sukhenko’s girlfriend, told Reuters the family was captured by Russian forces on March 23.

She said Russian soldiers first searched the house that morning, taking Oleksandr’s car and a phone. Oleksandr – known as Sasha – had called to reassure her, she said.

“I urged them to leave immediately. But Sasha said, ‘It’s okay, don’t worry,'” she said.

The soldiers returned a few hours later, blindfolded Olha Sukhenko and her husband and took them away, Belenitsyna said. Then they came a third time to take Oleksandr, she said, citing her sister Lena and family neighbors.

She said at first relatives thought the Sukhenko family might be part of a prisoner swap, but then found out they were dead.

Ihor, who did not give his surname and said he was a relative of the Sukhenkos, said: “Over there in the hole my family rests. I don’t know why they were killed. They were peaceful and kind people. “

Vadym Tokar, head of the Makariv village council, which neighbors Motyzhyn, said the bodies were left where they were found.

“We can’t get them out because it’s suspected they’re mined,” he said by phone.

Global outrage spread on Monday over the deaths of civilians in Ukraine, including evidence of bound bodies shot at close range and a mass grave discovered in Bucha, another town near kyiv, after being recaptured from Russian troops.

The Kremlin said on Monday it categorically denied any accusations related to the killing of civilians in Bucha.

“This information must be seriously questioned,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “From what we have seen, our experts have identified signs of video tampering and other forgeries.”

Russia denies targeting civilians since its February 24 invasion of Ukraine in what it calls a “special military operation” aimed at demilitarizing and “denazifying” Ukraine. Ukraine claims to have been invaded without provocation.

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Reporting by Marko Djurica, additional reporting and writing by Elizabeth Piper and Silvia Aloisi in Lviv; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Rosalba O’Brien

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