Bombed-out apartment blocks on Tsentralnaya Street in Borodyanka, Ukraine, 28 November 2023.
Bombed-out apartment blocks on Tsentralnaya Street in Borodyanka, Ukraine, 28 November 2023. © Iryna Domashchenko

A Body in the Forest

Court hears evidence of the circumstances surrounding the death of a 32-year-old Ukrainian man who went missing in the Bucha district.

Tuesday, 5 December, 2023

A witness has told the Borodyanka District Court how his brother spent the last days of his life hiding in a forest north-west of Kyiv before being allegedly shot dead by a Russian soldier.

The man, identified as Anatoly B, was giving evidence in the case of Radik Hukasyan, a 28-year-old Russian corporal who is accused of war crimes committed in March 2022 during the occupation of the Bucha district of the Kyiv region. 

He has been charged over the group shooting of a civilian car in which the driver was murdered, and the robbery of a house. Hukasayan,who was later captured in the Kherson region, has admitted his guilt, but testified in a closed session because he said that he was afraid of the consequences in Russia for himself and his family.

On November 28, Anatoly B, 39, told the court via video link from the Chernihiv region how his brother Dmytro B had gone missing. The 32-year-old’s body was found buried in the forest along the Babyntsi-Zdvizhivka road in the Bucha district.

At the beginning of the full-scale war, Dmytro was living in Kyiv and working as a household appliance repairman. On the morning of February 24, Dmytro left Kyiv driving his dark red VAZ 2101 into which he had packed some personal possessions. He initially drove in the direction of the Zhytomyr highway, but then turned towards Irpin and spent the night not far from Hostomel airport. Having heard there was some fighting there, he decided to move and hide in the forest for a few days.

“He told me on the phone that he had gone 20 kilometres away,” Anatoliy said.The brothers were in continuous contact. 

When it became clear that the fighting would not stop, Dmytro covered his car with branches and decided to leave the forest on foot. 

The family had found distant relatives in a village beyond Borodyanka who could shelter Dmytro. But on the morning of February 28, he was unable to leave the forest due to shelling and the presence of Russian military equipment. Instead, he came across a village where a local resident agreed to give him shelter. That day the brothers spoke for the last time.

Bombed-out apartment blocks on Tsentralnaya Street in Borodyanka, Ukraine, 28 November 2023. © Iryna Domashchenko

“He decided to go and pick up the car and drive it to this village. When I contacted him by phone, he said, ‘Now I will remove the branches, go to the village not far away and call back.’ After that, about half an hour later, my mother and I called his two phones, but they were not connected,” Anatoliy said.

Anatoliy and Dmytro’s mother sent a statement to the court and asked them to consider the case without her as she had been in poor health since the death of her youngest son.

The court also heard from Yevhenii P, who owns a dacha on the outskirts of the village of Lubyanka, Bucha district. When the full-scale war began, the 43-year-old and his family were in their country home.

“On February 25, 2022, at 6am, we were woken by the sound of military equipment and left our place of residence in four cars with our neighbours,” Yevgeny told the court.

He returned to the dacha after the liberation of Kyiv oblast on April 5, to find the house had been ransacked.

“The things we are talking about now were on the second floor in the children's playroom - a Sony Portable PlayStation console, PSP. It is a small hand-held device the size of a smartphone, black in color. When the investigator provided the photograph [at the pre-trial investigation], I clearly recognised the thing,” he told the court.

“Was it obvious that someone lived in the house?” asked Serhiy Revelyuk, the prosecutor of the General Prosecutor's Office.

“Yes, there were other people's clothes near my closets, leftover food and traces of the presence of some people. I had a safe with money in the basement, they got it, opened it, took the money and left me a wrapper from the Army of Russia chocolate. There were also packages of dry rations with the inscription Army of Russia in the place.”

Andriy K, a 60-year-old engineer, also gave evidence at the trial. He and his wife spent the period of the occupation of Kyiv region in a dacha near the village of Zdvizhivka. It is located near the village of Lubyanka and the road where the alleged murder took place.

The witness said that Russian soldiers came to his site every morning with five litre plastic buckets to collect water from the well. Hukasyan was among them.

“The investigator showed me a thick stack of photos for identification and asked me to look for familiar faces in the presence of the witness. I separated from this pile of photos, maybe three, among them was a photo of the accused,” said Andriy K.

Hukasyan participated in court remotely via video link from the Kyiv detention centre. The presiding judge of the panel, Gennadiy Stasenko, asked him through an interpreter if he had indeed gone to the witness's yard to collect water.

“I was there, but I was alone, no one was with me,” said Hukasyan.

“Does Hukasyan confirm that he saw this witness in the yard?” the judge asked.

“I can't see well from here. Maybe it's him, I can't say for sure,” replied the accused.

“Do you confirm the fact that the area where you went to get water matches the area described by the witness?” Stasenko continued.

“Let's clarify. Where I went to get water, the nearest landmark was the bus stop, and at the bottom of the bus stop was the first house on the right. Am I right?” asked Hukasyan.

“Yes. And the stop was the color of the flag of Ukraine,” answered Andriy K.

Hukasyan confirmed that this was the same area.

Andriy K also stated in his testimony that he saw the car on the side of the road when he walked his dog nearby in April last year, near where the remains of the victim were dug up.

“The colour [of the car] was close to red, because it was burnt. There was a gas cylinder in the trunk and it exploded. The wheels were burnt, the car was run over by a military vehicle with tracks,” he recalled.

The prosecutor asked if Andriy had seen the driver of this car.

“No, but I saw the boot,” he responded. “At first I thought it was an abandoned boot, but it was covered with earth. The smell of decomposition [of the body] began... My dog refused to walk further and we returned to the garden plot,”  the witness said, clarifying that the boot was sticking out of a fairly deep ditch in the forest near the car.

The next hearing in this case is scheduled for December 20 when the court will examine the written evidence for the prosecution.

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