Murder in Kherson

Pre-trial investigation into teenager’s death continues after likely stalling during Russian occupation.

Murder in Kherson

Pre-trial investigation into teenager’s death continues after likely stalling during Russian occupation.

Left: Anastasia Mostova, a 17-year-old girl killed in the southern Ukraine port city with her mother Tatyana; Right: Anastasia's grave.
Left: Anastasia Mostova, a 17-year-old girl killed in the southern Ukraine port city with her mother Tatyana; Right: Anastasia's grave. © Photos courtesy of Tetyana Mostova
Tuesday, 24 January, 2023

Kherson’s regional police and prosecutor’s office are investigating the suspected murder of Anastasia Mostova, a 17-year-old girl killed in the southern Ukraine port city in the first days of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

“Sometimes I think that my daughter will arrive running, open the door and say ‘Mum, give me something to eat.’ But no one will return my child to me,” her mother, Tetyana Mostova, told IWPR. She recalled how her daughter, nicknamed Nastya, had a passion for music and played the bandura, a Ukrainian folk string instrument.

On February 25, the day after the full-scale invasion was launched, Russians occupied the bridge over the Dnipro connecting the two banks of the city. The airfield was seized on February 28, and the Russians then moved towards Kherson’s Shumenskiy district where they were confronted by the local Territorial Defence in Buskovyy (Lilac) park. On March 1, Russian checkpoints appeared on the outskirts of Kherson and within hours the city of 300,000 was surrounded.

Mostova, then working in a bakery, was at home waiting for her daughter and her friend, also called Nastya, to come pick up groceries. It was rainy and windy and after the two girls arrived wet and cold she gave them dry clothes to change into.

“Nastya didn't wear any jewellery at all, but on that day she decided to put that black and lilac bracelet with skulls,” her mother recalled . That bracelet would later prove key to identifying Nastya’s body.

That evening, their friend Vagik came to pick the girls up by car: Russians were roaming the city and the streets were unsafe, so Mostova asked him to call when they arrived at their destination.

Vagik did not call. At 10 pm, Oleh, Nastya's boyfriend, rang and told Mostova that the car had come under fire and there were two bodies in it. The following day, police confirmed that the bodies were those of Nastya’s friends and that the car had come been shot at an intersection about ten minutes from where the fighting had taken place earlier that day. A Russian military convoy had passed the car and a video taken by passers-by reportedly showed the bullet-riddled car.

As Nastya’s body was not in the car Mostova thought there was a chance she had found shelter somewhere in the city.  But the day after, on March 2, the mother received a call from a friend who was at the morgue looking for her own daughter.

“Hold on, this is your Nastya, we've found [her black and lilac bracelet with skulls] on her,” Tatyana recalls her friend saying.

The case is being investigated as a criminal offence under Article 438, Part 2 of the Criminal Code - the violation of the laws and customs of war in combination with intentional murder. 

“At the moment, the pre-trial investigation is ongoing,” the local prosecutor's office told IWPR. The investigation started on March 4 when Kyiv-led institutions were still operating in the city, but likely stalled when Russians took over all aspects of life in the following months. The Ukrainian armed forces liberated the city on November 11, 2022.

Yevhen Vorobyov, an advocate and lawyer of the Human Rights Platform NGO, told IWPR that collecting evidence in such a case would be a daunting task.

“There may be photos and videos that can be used to identify the perpetrators; concerned citizens can also send such information to law enforcement officers,” he said.

Vorobyov also noted that in accordance with the provisions of Art 297-1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, this criminal offence would be investigated and a conviction issued in absentia, like most of the current war crimes proceedings.

This publication was prepared under the “Ukraine Voices Project" implemented with the financial support of the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO).

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