The white-haired man looks intently at the faces of the Russian military printed on paper. He tries not to miss a single detail. It is possible that among these people are those who killed his daughter during the Russian occupation and took him prisoner.
In the village of Motyzhyn in Kyiv oblast, the Russian occupiers committed particularly monstrous atrocities. They captured and tortured civilians, and many of them were killed. And those who tried to leave the occupied village were shot right on the road. During the occupation, the Russians killed dozens of people, including Olha Sukhenko, the head of the village, and her family, volunteers, and ordinary villagers who posed no danger.
In Motyzhyn and neighboring villages was located, in particular, the 37th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade from Buryatia. This Russian unit includes infantry, armored vehicles, artillery and other types of troops. After fleeing Kyiv at the end of March, the Russians left behind the burnt equipment, the chevrons and the staff documents. This helped the journalists of “Slidstvo.Info” to identify many of the Brigade’s servicemen.
After printing the portraits of some occupiers, the journalists went to Motyzhyn to talk to some locals who survived the occupation. With their testimony, we were able to identify three Russian soldiers and the specific crimes they committed during the occupation of Kyiv.
The Russians Killed the Daughter in Front of Her Parents
Mykola Lytvynenko used to live and work in Kyiv. One day he and his wife decided to move to the village of Motyzhyn, which is closer to the nature, and they could spend more time on gardening, which they loved so much. The two adult daughters, who already lived in the capital with their families, regularly visited the couple.
In the first days of the war, Mykola took both daughters to Motyzhyn. They hoped it would be safer and quieter than the capital. However, in early March, the Russian troops entered and occupied the village. Mykola and his family hid in the house and in the cellar, hoping that Russian bullets and shells would escape them. One day the man heard a loud gunfire and when it stopped, he ran out to see what was happening outside.
“I was scared because they were shooting at all the yards. They were just firing at the yards. I thought they were clearing the yards, shooting at people. Therefore, I shouted for my family to run out, I wanted to hide them. There is a reed near the pond, there is grass and nothing can be seen, – Mykola remembers, – But we didn’t have time. My daughter was overweight, she ran last. They saw us through the fence and started firing.”
The Russian occupiers aimed 41-year-old Yaroslava in the torso. It happened in front of her parents. Mykola ran up to her and tried to stop the bleeding. At that moment, the Russians entered the yard.
“They had optical sights and saw her well. I say, “Why did you shoot?” And he says, “Everyone in black is our enemy.” She was dressed in black. She was still alive, so we started asking them to take her to the doctor if they have a doctor, maybe we could save her,” says Mykola.
The occupiers put the wounded Yaroslava in an armored personnel carrier, and Mykola sat next to her, holding his daughter’s head. They were taken to the Russian positions on the outskirts of Motyzhyn, where there was a headquarters and a military doctor.
“I saw that their doctor was trying hard. However, the blood came out of her mouth and some liquid as well. I understood that that was the end, her lungs were pierced.”
Yaroslava died, a bullet pierced her lungs. She was covered with a military blanket, and Mykola was taken prisoner. The occupiers took away and put the man in a barn, a few dozen meters from the Russian positions.
Looking through the catalog with the faces of the Russian occupiers from the 37th Brigade, Mykola recognized one of the faces. This is a 30-year-old Sergeant Mahomedmyrza Suleimanov. He is a native of Dagestan, but lives and serves in Buryatia. The occupier is probably involved in the military intelligence, as he underwent some special training and education.
“This one (Suleimanov – ed.) looks like one of the boys. There were two armored personnel carriers in the caponiers, and also a car. This one looks like him. He was wearing some sweatpants and sneakers, he wasn’t wearing any uniform. I only saw him once when I was with my daughter. I didn’t see him after that. He was thin, tall, about a meter and eighty centimeters,” – Mykola recalls.
When Mykola was being led past the Russian camp, Mahomedmyrza Suleimanov was probably preparing dinner for himself. We showed Mykola some other photos of the occupier, and he confirmed that he saw him with a “high degree of probability.”
The Ukrainian military found a document on the battlefield, which has the name of Magomedmyrza Suleimanov in it. The Russians have recorded who, where and when allegedly destroyed Ukrainian military equipment. According to these documents, Suleimanov destroyed the Ukrainian car Gazelle at noon on March 7 in the city of Makariv. It is only twenty minutes drive from the place where Mykola saw Suleimanov.
“I Prayed to God to Take Him Away, How Can He Keep Killing for so Long”
Mykola sat locked in a barn on a small farm. It was cold outside, the man could barely stand it. The occupiers brought him a blanket and felt boots. A few days later, Oleh, a local pastor who ran a rehabilitation center for alcohol and drug addicts, was brought to him. The day before, the Russians visited the orphanage and took Pastor Oleh away. They suspected him of helping the Ukrainian military.
“They (Russians – ed.) suspected us of having some group living in the rehabilitation center that was killing them. They thought that the rehabilitation center was a cover, and that in fact a group of intelligence officers lived there. They came to us for the first time on March 23, and on the 24th they came again and took me with them,” – Oleh recalls.
The man was brought to a farm near the Russian trenches and was thrown into a sewer pipe. He was periodically pulled out and tortured, demanding to confess to sabotage and trying to find out some secret information. After the Russians fled, a local resident was tortured to death in the same sewer pipe.
“When I was sitting in the sewer, they were killing some man in about 10-15 meters from me. I was already praying and saying, “God, please, take him away.” Well, an hour and a half, an hour and a half a man was being killed. When I think about it, I have a strong adrenaline rush every time, my body itches and I can’t sleep,” – says Oleh.
Pastor Oleh and the employees of the rehabilitation center who survived the occupation carefully reviewed the catalog with the faces of the Russian servicemen from the 37th Brigade. They all recognized one person, a 24-year-old Sergeant Chynhiz Honchykov. The Russian occupier has been serving in the Russian army for several years. He has a wife and a little child. According to the documents at our disposal, Chynhiz Honchykov is serving as the Commander of a Combat Vehicle in the 37th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade.
“He had a sniper rifle. He was constantly looking around the corner through the sight of the SVD (Soviet rifle – ed.). I recognized him because I was watching him,” – said one of the staff members about Chynhiz Honchykov. The man also tells about how Honchykov and his colleagues behaved, “They stand and discuss what to do with us. They decide whether to shoot us, or to put us into that building and throw two grenades inside. They were joking, as I understood.”
The Russian Torture Chamber, a Mass Grave Next to It
Judging by the testimonies of the victims we were able to communicate with, the local farm was a place for torture and executions. A mass grave was dug right behind the fence of the farm, where the Russians threw the bodies of civilians tortured to death. It was here that the bodies of Olha Sukhenko, the head of the village, her husband and son were found. While sitting in the barn, Mykola heard them being tortured.
“She (Olha Sukhenko – ed.) shouted loudly, asked them to stop. Maybe they didn’t beat her then, but took turns beating her son and husband. And they are buried right there. They were tortured for about half an hour. I didn’t hear what they wanted from them or asked. I just heard them being beaten,” – Mykola recalls.
The Russians fled in the morning. According to the prisoners, first the tanks left, followed by armored personnel carriers and trucks. Mykola and Pastor Oleh were not shot. One of the occupiers opened the door for them and told them to wait until the last Russian military left. The men left the farm and immediately stumbled upon a mass grave.
“Olha (the head of the village – ed.) was in this pit, her husband and son were here, there was also a volunteer here. Even some blood stains remained here. And look, here are the Russian field rations. How much blood is around, and they pigged out right away,” – describes Pastor Oleh.
A little later they found the grave where Mykola’s daughter Yaroslava was buried. The Russians covered it with a green checkered blanket and covered it with the soil. A piece of paper with the inscription “Yaroslava Lytvynenko” was left over the grave.
The Wagner Group in Motyzhyn
During the conversation with the witnesses and victims, we drew attention to one detail. The people mentioned that together with the Russian regular troops there were occupiers who were more like mercenaries. They were in different camouflage, with different weapons and also behaved differently.
According to official investigators, the killings and torture of civilians in Motyzhyn, in addition to the Russian army, were committed by mercenaries from the private military structure of the Private Military Company Wagner. The suspicions were already announced to three of them.
Talking to Mykola, we showed him the faces of the suspected members of the Wagner Group.
After carefully looking at the photos, Mykola and his wife clearly recognized one of the suspects, namely, Sergei Sazonov.
“Here he is! He is very similar to him. This is the same person who said that everyone in black was their enemy. And if he is also one of the members of the Wagner Group, then this is exactly him. I don’t remember what I was asking him, but he said yes, we had been in Libya and Syria, and in Donbass in 2014. That’s why I say that he is one hundred percent the members of the Wagner Group.”
Sergei Sazonov is 34 years old, he comes from Kaliningrad, Russia. According to Ukrainian law enforcement and special services, Sazonov is a mercenary in the same Private Military Company Wagner. There he served as the Driver of the Command and Staff Vehicle. He publishes photos in military uniforms on his social networks, as well as photos from airports.
The Lytvynenko family is convinced that it was Sergei Sazonov who killed their Yaroslava. “He (Sazonov – ed.) was one of the first to run. Here they come to us, and I ask why they did that. And he answers me (about black clothes – ed.). If it wasn’t him, he wouldn’t answer. I think he was the one who fired,” – says Mykola.
During the preparation of this investigation, the Prosecutor General’s Office has announced suspicions to eight Russian servicemen of crimes committed during the occupation of Motyzhyn, they are accused of 14 episodes. Most of these occupiers were previously identified by the journalists of “Slidstvo.Info”.