Ukrainian law enforcement officers have identified two Russian servicemen from the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic who are suspected of murdering children’s writer and poet Volodymyr Vakulenko during the occupation of Kharkiv region. The occupiers may be involved in three more murders. Slidstvo.Info journalists found the sister and the aunt of Luhansk resident Vladyslav Neskorodiev, who ordered the torture and execution of people.

The journalists of Slidstvo.Info talked to the relatives of Vladyslav Neskorodiev, call sign “Lion”, who was occupying Izium in the Kharkiv region in 2022. 


According to the Izium City Council, at least 1,000 civilians died during the occupation as a result of Russian shelling, torture and executions. After the city was liberated, the Ukrainian military discovered mass graves — the dead had their hands tied, ropes around their necks, and broken bones. Among those tortured by the Russians, investigators identified the body of Ukrainian children’s writer Volodymyr Vakulenko. For more than six months, Volodymyr’s family did not know where he was.  

Mass grave in Izium / Photo: Radio Liberty

“In May, or maybe even in June, I accidentally heard people talking about Vakulenko. And I heard the following phrase: ‘But Vakulenko was taken to Russia, he will be tried’. This gave me hope again that he was alive… And judging by the latest events, the excavations and the entry in the book… We hope that there is some kind of confusion,” Vakulenko’s mother told reporters, hoping for the best.

The Russian military, led by Luhansk resident Vladyslav Neskorodiev, who sided with the occupiers, repeatedly came to the writer’s house in the spring of 2022. The investigation materials state that the Russian military abducted the writer along with his teenage son, who has a disability. The Russians abused him and incited him to cooperate with the enemy, but Vakulenko refused, and the military returned him and his son home. Two days later, the white car with a “Z” was back in the Ukrainian writer’s yard. 

Collaborator Neskorodiev ordered the soldiers to forcefully drag Volodymyr out of his home. The Russian soldiers also took his backpack with Ukrainian chevrons and patches of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. A few days later, locals found the backpack in Kapitolivka, a 15-minute drive from Izium. 

Vladyslav Neskorodiev allegedly ordered soldier Udodenko to shoot Vakulenko: he killed the writer with three shots, and prior to that, broke his fingers. Vakulenko’s body was identified among those tortured during the exhumation in November 2022. 


Investigative journalists of Slidstvo.Info found the page of Vladyslav Neskorodiev, who gave criminal orders as part of the Russian army, on the Russian social network Odnoklassniki


The traitor to Ukraine is 33 years old, he has a wife, Lina, and a seven-year-old daughter. 

The family decided not to leave the occupied Luhansk, unlike Vladyslav’s sister Suzanna. Slidstvo.Info journalists found the woman’s phone number, and it was from them that she first heard about the war crimes her brother was suspected of committing. 

“You are telling me this now, and my heart started pounding. I don’t know the whole story at all,” Suzanna told the journalists.

After the occupation of the city by Russians in 2014, the woman moved to Irpin, Kyiv region.

“We are from Luhansk itself. I left back in 2014. But my brother stayed behind, and I don’t even know where he is, what’s happening to him… I was shocked when I heard from my grandmother what had happened there, in Luhansk. It was a shock for me, I couldn’t believe it,” says the occupier’s sister. 

Suzanna says that when Russian troops occupied the Kyiv region, she did not have time to leave with her children to a safe place. So she had to wait for the liberation of Irpin in the basement of her house. 

 “I survived the occupation here in Irpin. We stayed here with our children, we did not have time to leave. It’s very hard, to be honest, and I really want it to end soon. Our house in Irpin survived, some windows were broken. Now we have moved to another house,” recalls the Russian soldier’s sister.

The woman knows little about her brother, saying that she had a fight with him, so she does not keep in touch. 

“We haven’t spoken to him for 7 years. I don’t even know where he is, what’s happening to him. We’ve always been on bad terms. The last time we saw each other was in 2014, when we were in Luhansk,” says Suzanna. 

The woman says she didn’t even know that her brother had sided with the occupiers: “He was working on construction sites, helping my aunt and uncle. I don’t know anything else about him. My family remained in Luhansk (occupied — ed.) — my brother Oleksandr Kovalev and my mother. My aunt stayed because my grandmother said she would not leave. I can’t answer for the rest of them, I don’t know why they decided to stay. Everyone decides for themselves.” 


Slidstvo.Info journalists called Neskorodiev, but his Ukrainian number turned out to be invalid. However, his aunt, Natalia Kovaleva, who lives in Luhansk and is happy with the occupation, agreed to talk to them.

The woman says that she also had a fight with her nephew, but she has raised him since childhood, so she is convinced that Neskorodiev is not capable of killing a civilian. 

“‘Vladyslav would never be able to kill any civilian – I know that for sure. I have raised him since childhood, he is not such a person. So what the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office publishes is their problem. I don’t believe it and I will never believe it. The Russian army protects Ukrainians. A real Russian soldier, an officer, will never kill a defenceless person. Never,” Kovaleva says. 

On her Odnoklassniki page, the woman does not hide her affection for Putin and the Russian army.

Kovaleva believes that her niece Suzanna was hiding in Irpin “from bombs and criminal acts of American mercenaries in the Ukrainian army”: “There are many mercenaries serving in the Ukrainian army, such as Americans, who do not care whether it is their children or not.” 

Neskorodiev’s sister, who survived the occupation in Irpin, says she hates the Russian army: “I don’t like it, I would never go to the Russian side. I was born in Ukraine and I believe that Ukraine is our native place. I feel hatred for the Russian army, Russian soldiers and those who cooperated with them.” 

The Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine suspects Vladyslav Neskorodiev of organising the murder of three more civilians in Izium: Ivan Shabelnyk, anti-terrorist operation participant Yuriy Kavun and Leonid Taran.

It is currently unknown where the Ukrainian traitor is. It is likely that the man continues to occupy Ukrainian cities on the side of the Russians. He faces imprisonment for a term of 8 to 12 years (Article 438 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine).  

“If I live, I will live only with this dream and hope: that my son’s killers will be punished,” says Volodymyr Vakulenko’s mother.  

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The material has been prepared with the support of the European Union and the International Renaissance Foundation within the framework of the joint initiative “European Renaissance of Ukraine”. The material represents the position of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the position of the European Union or the International Renaissance Foundation.