Ukraine: "There Was No One to Save"

Surveillance video footage recorded how victims were gunned down and the looting that followed.

Ukraine: "There Was No One to Save"

Surveillance video footage recorded how victims were gunned down and the looting that followed.

The prosecutor and the panel of judges examining written evidence in the Kyiv-Svyatoshinsky district courtroom, Ukraine.
The prosecutor and the panel of judges examining written evidence in the Kyiv-Svyatoshinsky district courtroom, Ukraine. © Iryna Domashchenko
Tuesday, 18 July, 2023

A trial into the shooting dead of two Ukrainian civilians on March 19, 2022 by Russian soldiers has heard further details about the circumstances in which the men died.

A 27-year-old Russian serviceman from Omsk, Lieutenant Nikolai Sokovikov, is believed to be one of the soldiers who shot the owner and security guard of a company in the Kyiv area. 

Stills from a surveillance video at the scene of the crime showed that five Russian military personnel arrived at the enterprise near the village of Mriya, 30 kilometres from Kyiv. Their car was marked with the letter V and the inscription Tank Special Forces RUS. Two unarmed civilians approached them - the owner of the enterprise and a security guard.  According to the investigation, the Russian soldiers examined the men and, having made sure that they did not pose a threat, gave them the opportunity to leave. But as soon as the civilians moved a few metres away, one soldier and an accomplice opened fire with machine guns at the men's backs. 

They suffered at least 12 gunshot wounds. The 61-year-old owner of the enterprise died on the spot, and the guard managed to return to the security room, where he died shortly after from blood loss.

The Russian soldiers then robbed the enterprise and loaded the stolen goods into a car. This was recorded by the company's security cameras, which operated from uninterruptible power sources as at the time there was no electricity at the enterprise. The video helped to identify the accused. Sokovikov is being tried in absentia and according to the investigation is in the territory of the Russian Federation.

Image from the scene of the event from video surveillance cameras. © Office of the Prosecutor General

On June 26, the Kyiv-Sviatoshyn district court completed the interrogation of three relatives of the deceased company owner and two prosecution witnesses. 

The relatives of the deceased and the defence lawyer objected to journalists photographing and videoing them. The court allowed reporters to photograph only the panel of judges and the prosecution, and not to identify the family members.

The man’s wife, who had left Ukraine after the full-scale invasion began, wept as she told the court how she had heard of the death of her husband.

“I found out from a phone call,” she said.

The relatives of the deceased business owner last saw him on the morning of February 25, 2022.

"He was the owner of the enterprise and the owner of the territory and stayed because he wanted to keep his property,” one witness told the court. “I understood that if there was an occupation or if he was not there, the territory would not be guarded, there would be looting.”

The witness was in constant communication by phone with the owner of the business and thus could confirm that there were no Ukrainian military personnel stationed on the territory of the enterprise and that the deceased was dressed in civilian clothes - jeans and a jacket. According to the witnesses, on March 19 the Russian military entered the enterprise for the first time. Before then, they drove by on the road and could shoot at the building but did not enter the territory.

The third relative of the owner questioned at the trial was among the last to speak with the security guard before his death. The guard had stayed to help protect the enterprise because he could not get home as his village near Kyiv was already occupied by Russian troops. The security guard answered a call on the phone of the owner of the company and briefly explained what had happened.

"He said that it is difficult for him to speak because he is injured, he needs to conserve his strength,” the man told the court. “Said that [the Russian soldiers] asked questions and said, ‘that's it, you're free. When they started to move away from the military, I heard an automatic burst’.”

The security guard told the witness that he heard a scream and lost consciousness. When he regained consciousness, he could not feel the pulse of the owner of the company. He then went to the security room where, as recorded by the video surveillance cameras, he tried to bandage himself, but bled to death.

The first witness for the prosecution was a 23-year-old Russian prisoner of war from Ulan-Ude, Erdeni Ukhinov. He testified to the court via video link through a Russian-to-Ukrainian translator. Ukhinov is in the West 1 prisoner of war camp in the Lviv region. He recognised the accused Sokovikov from the surveillance footage which was shown to him during the pre-trial investigation.

"The video was shown by the senior lieutenant of the investigator, I don't remember the last name... In Ukraine, when they were called for questioning, the lawyer was sitting next to them and the interpreter was sitting next to them," Ukhinov told the court.

He said that he had last seen Sokovikov on March 30, 2022 on the territory of Belarus as Russian troops were retreating from the Kyiv region. 

Ukhinov told the court that he had been based between the villages of Buzova and Berezivka in the Kyiv region and knew that Sokovikov was five kilometres from him in the direction of Kyiv city. The village of Mriya, near which the crime took place, is located in this direction.

The Russian prisoner of war claimed that he did not see the accused on the territory of Ukraine and was not a witness to the murder of two civilians. He only confirmed that he saw Sokovikov in the video.

The second witness for the prosecution was a volunteer fighter who told the court that on the day in question his commander received a call from an injured security guard at the company who asked for help. Volunteers together with soldiers from the Ukrainian Armed Forces went to the scene of the crime and engaged in battle with the Russian military.

"They saw three men in Russian military uniforms. Someone from the Armed Forces shouted, ‘Surrender, we will shoot!’. A shootout ensued. We heard the sound of an approaching armoured personnel carrier, so we left," the volunteer said.

An hour later, the Ukrainian military returned to the scene but by then, according to the witness, “There was no one to save.”

"One [body] was lying near the gate near the track, and the other was in the guard's booth. He just bled... the blood hadn't cooled yet," the man told the court.

After the interrogation of the witnesses and the victims, the court examined the written evidence of the prosecution. Next, the court will study video evidence from surveillance cameras. After that, the panel of judges will hear Sokovikov's defence from a lawyer from the Ukrainian Centre for Free Legal Aid.

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