Thank goodness for high-quality CCTVs.
In May, the Ukrainian authorities reported Russian soldiers who shot civilians in a private office. It happened during the height of the confrontation in Kyiv, and the main roads of the capital were blocked by live firing. Civilians have either evacuated miles from the city or remained in their homes and offices in fear of getting caught in the crossfires. Unfortunately for Leonid Pliats and his boss, they didn’t have the time to do either.
Order of Events
The Russians in full combat gear arrived with a stolen van with a “V” sign. They also added graffiti on the van with the words “Tank Spetsnaz.” The Russians surrounded the building and found Leonid and his boss.
The Russians entered the post office with their guns up, and fingers readied on the triggers. Leonid immediately walked toward them with his hands up to show he was unarmed. The Russians were seen trying to talk to him and his boss. Unfortunately, the CCTV images did not record any audio files, so we couldn’t verify what was being asked of them.
Initially, the conversation seemed calm. The soldiers even smoked. The Russians were seen getting a bag from the civilians and letting them out of the post office. And as Leonid and his boss started to turn away, the soldiers also started to leave.
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But, as Leonid and his boss walked a few feet away, two Russian soldiers quietly positioned themselves with guns pointing at the civilians, and in less than 10 seconds, Leonid and his boss dropped to the ground. Shot down with no warning in a back.
Leonid was able to stand up a couple of minutes later (probably checking to make sure the Russians were already away). He managed to get to the guard booth to make a call to the local network of civilians-turned-soldiers.
One of the guys Leonid reached out to spoke to the media anonymously and said they immediately took action. Unfortunately, Leonid had already lost a lot of blood when the first Ukrainian arrived. They tried to retrieve his body, but the Russians spotted them and shot at them multiple times as they were escaping. They tried to fight back but were unsuccessful. Since they were a civilian volunteer force, they didn’t have the firepower to fight the Russians on site.
He added that Leonid said the Russians told him they don’t kill civilians, so he was caught off-guard when they were shot.
“I said can you at least bandage yourself up? And he told me, Vasya, I barely crawled here. Everything hurts so much. I feel really bad,” Vasyl remembers the call.
“So I told him to hang in there and started phoning the territorial defence.”
A couple of minutes later, the CCTV detected the Russians were looting the place, stealing bicycles, scooters, and other files in the director’s office. They even drank whisky as they flipped through the cupboards.
Sasha and Kostya, the volunteers who tried to retrieve Leonid, were forced to wait. Unfortunately, it was not until later that they realized Leonid was already dead.
“We talked to him on the phone, we tried to calm him. We told him, “it’s ok. Everything will be ok. You’ll survive,” Sasha tells me they did their best to comfort him.
“We said we were on our way. Maybe that helped him. Maybe. But unfortunately, by the time we made it, he was dead.”
After more than two months of investigation, the Ukrainian prosecutors finally have the images and other documents they need to file this to international courts as a war crime. In addition, the prosecutors have reportedly informed Moscow of their pre-trial investigation. However, they refused to reveal how they identified the Russian suspect.
The Bucha Prosecutor’s Office said the suspect has finally been identified as Nikolay Sergeevich Sokovikov. Now, Sokovikov is being charged with “violation of the laws and customs of war” and “international murder.”
With the pre-trial ongoing, Leonid and his boss’ families are one step closer to getting the justice they deserve.