Endemic Depravity, Torture and Torment for Lost Loved Ones: Inside a Village Ravaged by Russian Soldiers | world news

Boghdanivka is a small farming village on the northern route from Kyiv to Chernihiv, just east of the Dnipro River.

For many weeks in March and April it was occupied by Russian soldiers as they tried to advance on the capital Kyiv, before retreating, defeated.

They left behind memories of rampant depravity, torture and families desperate for news of missing loved ones.

This is the story of Boghdanivka, but it could be countless villages in Ukraine where lives changed during 100 days of war.

“He loaded his machine gun and said, ‘Now we’re going to kill you’.”

Aleksander, alias, hid the clothes he was wearing the night the Russians came for him – he keeps them safe as evidence of war crimes.

He shows us the bloodstained tracksuit bottoms, where a nail was driven into his knee. And the cloth used to tie his hands behind his back. He still has the scars on his face from where a cigarette was stubbed out.

“He (a soldier) hit me on the head with the handle of a knife. He kicked me in the back. Then he put my hands on the table and hit them three times with the butt of a machine gun. The arm was already badly bent. I understood that it was a fracture. “You are a Nazi. Where are you hiding the Nazis?” he shouted at me.

“He kept saying ‘you’re an animal’ and ‘I’m going to cut something off you’. He pulled out a knife, pressed it against my stomach and said, ‘I’m going to cut off your penis so you don’t breed’.” There were about five people. They beat me on all sides.

“I was hit so hard that something cracked in my head and I fell to the ground and his foot slipped on the blood. They said, ‘Get up, or we’re going to cut your tendons from legs’.

“He kept his foot on my leg to break it. I got up and sat down on a chair. I couldn’t understand anything. I was lost. I couldn’t speak well, my nose was broken. Then he asked, ‘Do you smoke?’ I say no.

“And he put the cigarette butt on my cheek. Then he said, ‘Take that animal away, it’s covered everything in blood.’

Aleksandr has scars on his face where Russian soldiers in Boghdanivka tortured him with cigarettes

“They took me and took me down the stairs to the basement. They put me on a plastic chair. They said, ‘Wait, we’re coming to kill you.’

“Then he comes down and says, ‘I’m a maniac, I’m going to cut you off’.

“He came down and started hitting me with his fists, the handle of a knife. Then he took my ear and cut it a little. Then in the morning he loaded his machine gun and said : ‘Now we are going to kill you’.”

Russian soldiers smeared their own excrement on the walls

The village school is around the corner. What’s left.

When Russian troops occupied the village, the school was used as a main base. It is now a burnt shell, completely ransacked. There are mattresses on the floors where the Russian soldiers slept and half-empty liquor bottles.

Read more:
100 Days of War in Ukraine: The Devastating Consequences of Putin’s Invasion

In the math class, there is a calendar showing the day of their arrival and the day of their departure – and next to it a message written in English.

As a final insult, they smeared their own excrement on the walls, then set the place on fire as they retreated.

“We knew they were here, that they lived here, but I didn’t think that adults, who could also have children, could do that,” the director told us.

“We thought they were going to live here, build and move out of here. But what they did was awful. It was hard on me, it was hard on the kids. The kids cried when they saw that the kindergarten had burned down.”

Russian soldiers went from house to house, marking the front doors if people lived there.

Yulia Vasylenko's husband has been missing since being abducted from Boghdanivka by Russian forces
Yulia Vasylenko’s husband has been missing since being abducted from Boghdanivka by Russian forces

Like everyone else, Yulia Vasylenko knocked on the door – she is married to the village policeman Viacheslav.

He was taken away that day and has not been seen since.

“Five soldiers came,” she said.

“Two in the house and three were waiting in the street. They told my husband to put his hands behind his back and then they took him away. We haven’t seen him since and we don’t know anything about him. J hope he’s in jail – we need him alive, we miss him.”

She thinks he may have been betrayed by a traitor.

“He was taken away and beaten for sure,” she said.

“He was betrayed. 100% delivered by someone. They knew exactly who he was and where we lived.”

These are the stories of a single Ukrainian village.

Men, women and children whose lives and futures have been irrevocably changed and damaged.

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