He Played Dead to Survive Summary Execution

Ukrainian man says unit was captured, tortured by Russian soldiers in Bucha
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 9, 2022 10:45 AM CDT
Ukrainian Man Says He Played Dead as Russians Executed His Unit
Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President, walks during her visit to a mass grave in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, April 8, 2022.   (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

A Ukrainian man says he was shot in the side and played dead to survive after Russian troops executed the other members of his defense unit. The Economist says it has verified reports of the summary execution, one of countless horrific stories emerging from towns formerly occupied by Russian troops. Vanya Skyba says he was manning a checkpoint in the Kyiv-area town of Bucha on March 5 when it came under artillery fire. He says he was sheltering in a home's basement with seven other men when Russian soldiers found them. He says the group told the soldiers they were construction workers, but they were taken away for interrogation at a construction supply firm the Russians were using as a base.

"They made us take our clothes off, lie face down, and then they searched our telephones and bodies for symbols and tattoos," Skyba says. He says that when soldiers killed one of the men to try to make the others talk, one man admitted they were members of a defense unit. Skyba says they were beaten and tortured over the next few hours before an order came through to kill them, "but to do it away from the base." After the bullet missed vital organs and he played dead, he fled to a nearby home and was later captured by soldiers from a different unit, who believed it when told he was the homeowner. He says he was detained in a cellar with a dozen women and children and made it back to Kyiv when they were released a few days later.

Skyba, 43, worked renovating homes in Kyiv before the Russians invaded and he joined a territorial defense unit. He had no military experience and was assigned to shifts at the checkpoint. He says one of the men shot alongside him was his friend Svyatoslav Turovskiy, godfather to his four children. The Economist reports that the bodies of Skyba's comrades, some with their hands tied behind their back, were found after Bucha was liberated on March 31, and "from the ... putrid smell of the decomposing bodies, they had been there for some time—giving the lie to Russian claims that the killings were carried out by Ukrainian forces."

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Ukrainian authorities say they have found hundreds of bodies in towns near the capital, including in Bucha, where the mayor says search teams are still finding the bodies of civilians who had been shot at close range, the AP reports. Some 67 bodies were unearthed from a mass grave near a church in the town Friday. Germany's foreign intelligence service says evidence of war crimes in the area includes intercepted Russian conversations about killing civilians. The service says it also intercepted discussions about executing captives, including one in which a Russian soldier says, "First you interrogate soldiers, then you shoot them." (More Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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