The village of Rudnya in Kyiv oblast is located 25 kilometers from Brovary. During March, it was under occupation – Russian troops entered the territory on March 9, and left Rudnya only 20 days later, when they retreated from the region. Seven kilometers from Rudnya is the village of Bohdanivka, where the Russians, namely the 15th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade, camped in a school and abused, tortured, killed and raped the residents of the village. The prisoners from the surrounding villages were also brought to the local school of Bohdanivka. So it was here that Serhii was brought from Rudnya.
The journalists of Slidstvo.Info went to Rudnya and recorded the story of Serhii Mykolaienko, who spent six days in Russian captivity – the video has English subtitles.
“THEY CAME INTO THE VILLAGE, WE RAN AWAY AND HAVEN’T EVEN DUG THE BURIAL PIT IN THE CEMETERY”
On the way to Serhii’s house, we notice the consequences of Russian shelling. The residents of Rudnya say that the Russians entered the village by accident, on the way to Bohdanivka. And they were mostly shot by themselves. However, even such a coincidence gave the occupiers the opportunity to “give nightmares” to the local population – some were even evicted from their houses in order for the Russian military to live in them, and their phones and jewelry were robbed, the military also looted the houses.
Serhii Mykolaienko is now walking on crutches. To talk to us, his wife takes the pillows out of the old house and puts them on the broken bed. It is noticeable that he is already used to crutches, but it is still difficult for him to walk – a fracture that has not fused properly and a large scar from a wound on his leg bothers him. The man jokes that as soon as he recovers, he will start running and join the Armed Forces of Ukraine to kill Russian soldiers.
Serhii signed up for the Rudnya Territorial Defense Forces on the very first day of the full-scale Russian offensive against Ukraine. A total of 12 people from a village of almost 2,000 joined its ranks at that time. Therefore, as soon as the Russian troops approached the nearby villages, he began to help the Armed Forces of Ukraine and adjusted their fire on the enemy columns. The man, together with his friends, filmed the movements of the Russians and sent their locations to the military.
Serhii also tells about the fact that the Russians shot local residents of the village.
“Vova was driving to Shevchenkove on a moped – he was shot. A neighbor living further along the edge of the village was a security guard at the summer houses. He went out to see what was buzzing there and was shot immediately,” he recalls.
The man says that the Russians shot all the cars that came across them on the way, and he recalls that his neighbor also came across a Russian convoy, but he managed to escape through the streets of the village.
During the occupation, a shot couple who fled from Bohdanivka and accidentally drove to Rudnya was also buried here.
“Shot car was also run over. I feel so sorry for them, the young man, and that woman was young too. And her husband. The man is alive now, I don’t know how he will survive this. The wife was shot,” he says.
When the woman and man killed by the Russians were being buried in the cemetery, the men had to hide, because on that day the occupiers entered the village.
“They came into the village, we ran away and haven’t even dug the burial pit in the cemetery. Our cemetery is in the center. Then after they had left, we buried the woman and man. The seemed to be Sasha and Katya,” Serhii says.
According to him, five people were shot in Rudnya. He also remembers that his acquaintance, Roman, a hunter from nearby Shevchenkove, died in the village of Mokrets because of the occupiers.
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“His dog ran up to me in the forest, let me pet her and ran away. Then I thought that it might mean sone news about him. And then I found out that he died,” says the man.
Just like Roman, who died in the nearby village of Mokrets, Serhii transmitted information about the movement of enemy columns.
“In the morning, during the day, I did not sleep at night, the wife sleeps, I am already in the other village. I gave our people the information about where and what was there. I was almost caught, sitting like that by the road, drove three meters like that. I was sitting behind a stump, I don’t know how they didn’t notice me behind that small stump, I don’t know. I would have been caught there earlier,” he says.
But not everyone supported his activities.
“Everyone asked why had I gone, who was asking me to go there. And why? Waiting for them to come? They come to houses and shoot, it happens. Should I wait until they kill me in my house or what?”, he is indignant.
And he says that this is why he did not hide, but went to help the Ukrainian military: “Why should I sit and wait for them to come to my house and kill me, or to abuse my woman. In Bobryk, my wife’s niece was raped. They did whatever they wanted.”
“I WAS BROUGHT INTO THE ROOM WHERE THE BODIES OF THE MURDERED WERE PLACED AND THEY SAID: “SNIFF THE DEAD ONES”
On March 24, Serhii, together with his comrades from the Armed Forces, set up a dugout in the forest near the village. And it was there that the Russians caught him – a few days before that, the Ukrainian military blew up a Russian armored personnel carrier and the occupiers began searching them in the forest.
“We went to cut down some branches, we drag them to the pit. I walk ahead, and my comrade walks behind. He did not cross the road. I crossed it, there were 10 meters left… Then, I see one katsap and the other – a Buryat rising near, I think – well, where should I go, the one with the machine gun starts coming, I… well, I turn around, immediately give a sign to him, throw this tree on the ground and start walking. The one with the gun machine shows me, waves, like go there further,” he recalls.
Thanks to this, the Russians did not capture his comrade, but shot Serhii in the right leg and started a firefight.
“They run up, drag me away, we had a cache there, RPGs, grenades, there was a lot of stuff. I lie down and think about what did they come up with,” the man says.
To the Russians, he explained his presence in the forest by the fact that he was helping a local grandfather to cut the firewood for a loaf of bread, but he did not know what had happened in the dugout and who had been there. However, the occupiers did not really listen to him, they started shouting that he was a Nazi and tried to tie Serhii up.
“They started tying me up, put on a tourniquet, beat, threatened with a knife. This Buryat sat down on me, hit me on the head with the butt, the hematoma was like that,” the man shows.
He managed to throw the phone away, stuffing it in his jacket, so the Russians could not get the evidence of his cooperation with the military.
“Then they would shot me immediately,” the former prisoner adds.
Then Serhii was forced to climb onto a Russian vehicle, put a hat on his head so that he could not see anything, and was taken out of the village.
“I thought about where they were taking me. It was whether Bohdanivka or (Velyka) Dymerka. They drove for a long, long time, they placed me somewhere, I didn’t understand where was I and what was going on because of the hat,” Serhii shares.
They brought him to some room, and sewed up the wound on his leg – with debris and sand inside. Later, Serhii was brought into the room where the bodies of the murdered were placed, and was told to “smell the dead ones.” And within an hour he was transferred to the classroom, where the man spent several days. Only on the second day he was able to carefully move the hat away from his eyes, and found a child’s diary on the floor. He says that he no longer remembers the name on it, but he saw that the diary belonged to one of the students of the third grade at the school in Bohdanivka. That’s how he finally understood where he was.
At our request, Serhii agreed to show us the place where he was kept. So we head to a destroyed school in a nearby village. Now it is abandoned, the windows in it were blown out by explosions, the premises inside were burnt out – even the school boards in the classrooms were flooded from the fire that was there.
The school in the village of Bohdanivka in Brovary district served as a headquarters for Russian troops. It was here that Serhii was brought for interrogation and, it seems, other prisoners were also kept in the school. Before retreating on March 29, the Russians set fire to the school and ammunition on its territory.
The man points to the remains of the classroom where he was held. He says that through the window, sometimes, when the Russians were not watching, he could see trees and a small shop next to the school. He says that he also recognized this shop because he used to stop by here on the way to his fishing spot.
“YOU ARE NAZIS, WE HATE YOU ALL, WE WILL SHOOT, DESTROY YOU ALL”
The Russians tortured Serhii for the first three days. According to him, a man from Crimea was particularly cruel.
“He was, as he said himself, a Ukrainian, from Crimea, as he told me. I don’t remember whether his name was Illia or Volodia. His hair was black, I would recognize him in the photo. He constantly sat, placed a school chair, and shot from a machine gun in the direction above my head, under my feet. He shot, I jumped up, tried to cover my head. And then he hit my leg with a butt,” the man recalls.
“He took off the hat saying, “Look me in the eyes.” And here it is, “You are Nazis, we will kill you, we all hate you, we will shoot and destroy you all,” he quotes the occupiers.
Other Russians also came to him – both Europeans and Buryats. According to him, the young “term conscripts” behaved better. One of them, during the shelling of the school, even helped the prisoner to some extent.
“It seems that the shelling started on the third day. I was lying there in the middle of the class. I pushed myself back with my leg, I pulled linoleum like this, I see some desks across. I hid myself there under the wall, because I understood that the hits were coming here. The katsap comes in alone, asks: “And who dragged you?”, I said your people, he left. And then the young man run in, and some other one too. One came in: “Ah, well, you’ve been here.” I confirmed it. So he pulled another desk, which was standing behind the door, closer to me like that and covered me, it looked like the shield from the fragments,” says Serhii.
Others, senior Russian soldiers, were more brutal. They accused the man of working for the Armed Forces and beat him.
“Three or four men tortured me, one of them with a rubber (shot in the arm – ed.), then they beat me with the butt, cut me, I have two wounds here on my arm. For the second or third day, one person was pressing me with his foot, I was grabbing his leg like that and it was shutting me down. And so I put my hands on my chest and he hit me. I felt something dull, most likely a bayonet-knife, I don’t know, something dull like that,” Serhii shows the scars on his hands. He says that he still has problems with his throat because the Russians tried to strangle him several times.
They also threatened to kill him.
“Tell the truth, because you will go where others do, into a sewer or a cesspit, where you will not be found, nor buried in a human way, you will die like a dog. No one will remember where you are and what you are.” That’s how they thretened me. They tell me this, but I stand still and I… I say, I knew where I was going and what for. “I will never give my people up, never in my life,” says the man. Later, the law enforcement officers will find human remains in a local sewage well.
“HE HAS A WOUND, IT WILL SUPPURATE, LET HIM SUFFER, HE WILL DIE BY HIMSELF. GANGRENE WILL DEVELOP, HE WILL DIE BY HIMSELF”
On the fourth day of captivity, according to Serhii, the Russians were already much less interested in him and more often left him alone. The man had to lie on an aluminum stretcher, which was completely covered with his blood, without the possibility of even going to the toilet.
“On the fifth or sixth day, they gave me a pillow, a blanket, because I was lying without anything at all, it was cold, awfully cold. The door was opened, the drafts came here, I had terrible convulsions. I couldn’t stand a stay in the hospital for more than a month… I couldn’t even sleep. They gave me some injections (healed – ed.),” he recalls.
At the same time, the Russians fed Serhii with field ration.
“In the morning, around 7 o’clock, the vehicles come, you feel the stink of their field rations. It stinks so much that it is impossible to breathe – the whole school stank. And around 10 o’clock, a Buryat comes into my room alone, I can see from the slanting eyes that he is a Buryat, with some meat, I really wanted to eat it, it smelled so good. And after that I felt the stink again. So they give me to eat, I ate it, it was impossible to eat. It’s like… The chocolate bar was there, I took it and broke my tooth. It was like rubber, it was impossible to eat. But I ate, because I hadn’t eaten for so long, so I needed at least something,” Serhii recalls.
Some heads also came to the Ukrainian prisoner to decide what to do with him.
“Two heads came on the first and second day and told them to shot me. And another said, probably their doctor: “He has a wound, suppuration will start, let him suffer, he will die himself. If gangrene develops, he will die himself,” Serhii recalls.
And one day, a wounded Russian soldier was brought to his class, he died later.
“He was alive, wrapped in a blanket. Commanders came, they asked him which brigade, battalion, I don’t remember – whether it was the third regiment or brigade, 22 something of the RGD or something like that. Burnt. Well, on the 29th, when they were retreating, they took him,” recalls the former prisoner.
When the Ukrainian military began shelling the Russian headquarters, Serhii had to deal with the hard situation.
“They have hit my class directly. Everything was burning and all the smoke was coming here. Me… I must have been washing off the soot for a couple of weeks. Couldn’t wash off with wipes. The fragments were falling, but I didn’t hear anything there: either it was falling here or there, or it was falling on the slopes. The glow was blinding. Didn’t hear anything. And then it throws me like meat on a grill. Well, I don’t know how I survived here, I looked at the door from behind being in the holes, above the knee level. It’s good that I was lying on the floor,” says the man.
And on March 29, when the Russians were retreating, they set fire to both the school and the ammunition in it, because when the Armed Forces fired at the invaders, the man does not remember such destruction that the school suffered. He also says that he heard that during the retreat his executioners discussed that their unit had received an order to relocate to Luhansk oblast.
“IF SOMEBODY GAVE ME THOSE EXECUTIONERS, I WOULD CUT THEM TO PIECES”
At the same time, Serhii and another man, also Serhii, who was at school, were released.
“They said: “You have 5 seconds to run away from here”. And we left. The roof was on fire. Fully. As soon as we turned the corner of the school, there was an explosion. I thought (Serhii – ed.) blew up on the stretcher, but he was coming back to get the harness,” recalls the former prisoner.
So the other one went back for the harness and bar that fixed the damaged leg with an open wound and a fracture. Everything around exploded. The man managed to escape only thanks to the bicycle they found on the school grounds – Serhiy used it as a scooter and thus protected his injured leg. After leaving the school grounds, Serhii found a woman with a phone and called the police. He was taken to the hospital from Bohdanivka.
Already at the hospital, the man was told that he might lose his leg.
“I got to the hospital, suppuration started, they wanted to amputate my leg. The older doctor wanted to operate, but the other, younger doctor said to wait a week or two and see how was it going on, maybe they would keep it,” says Serhii.
In the end, it was possible to save his leg. Only a month ago he underwent the first surgery. However, the leg still causes problems. The man says that he used to think that it would be better to be shot immediately than to become a cripple and cause problems for the family. But now he is more optimistic: “If someone gave me those executioners, I would cut them to pieces. If I start running, I will join the Armed Forces. I don’t like sitting still, I want to expel them out of here together with my comrades.”