war crimes in Ukraine

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Constant plane attacks and barrages overhead

08.08.2023    available: Українською | На русском
Oleksandr Vasyliev
On 24 February 2022, Valerii Kovinko and his family left the capital for their house in the village of Stoianka, Buchansky district, hoping it would be safer there. The village turned out to be in a gray zone: between the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the Russians. The most terrible thing, the man says, was the bombing of Russian aircraft.

I am Valerii Kovinko, a disability pensioner. I built the house and had a bad fall, breaking both legs.

Planes flew in from the north, from Belarus. On the first day, they bombed the checkpoint, and we saw two planes come in and drop bombs. Then they flew in two at a time, only at night. From the fifth to the sixth of March, planes flew again, but not in the usual way — one, second, and third bombardment. I went outside to see if any house had been hit. At this moment, an enemy plane arrived from the direction of Irpin and fired a rocket directly over the neighbor’s house. It ended up at the crossroads and hit the KLO gas station.

Valerii Kovinko, Stoianka village, Buchansky district, Kyiv region

My house was left without windows; all the windows flew out. The blast wave was from all sides, carrying everything away, and there was a lot of debris. Then, in my yard, I found fuses from a rocket, fragments of mines, many things ... Gifts for a keepsake from the barbarians.

Fragments that Valerii Kovinko found in his yard

When there were powerful attacks, we went down to the cellar. The walls in the cellar are robust, made of roadbeds. There I put a cot and took blankets, sheets, and two barrels of drinking water. We prepared to sit there for a long time, knowing it would not end in a week or two. And when it became unbearable to stay, and the Terrorist Defense workers reported that the Ignatovsky bridge had been opened and they would evacuate people, we decided to go. We didn’t take anything from the clothes: we left wearing what we had on. We got into the car, drove to the intersection, stood, crossed ourselves, pressed the gas pedal to the floor, flew through the intersection, and reached Territory Defense people. Then, it became calmer there. I took my family for evacuation to the Vinnytsia region.

As a result of the shellings, several houses of my neighbors were almost completely destroyed and uninhabitable. A mine hit the gas boiler in one of the houses, and the kitchen caught fire and burned for four days. And all because there were no people, there was no one to extinguish it, and as a result, the whole house burned out. No place, no cellar — nothing left.

Valerii Kovinko shows the destroyed house of his neighbors

Another neighbor’s house was hit by rocket debris. The house burned down; in addition, from the blast wave, the wall moved five centimeters to the side. The house cannot be restored, and it must be demolished. Ivankhniuk Pavlo Vasylovych lived in this house with his wife. They are pensioners. He is from Chornobyl, and such misfortune happened.

Fragments of a Russian rocket that hit the house of Valerii Kovinko’s neighbors

The Russians brought a lot of trouble... What do I think of them? I don’t believe this is a nation — it’s some kind of mordva [ethnic slur meaning savages], people from the forest. I don’t think it’s a civilized country. They are barbarians!

Now Valerii Kovinko lives in Stoianka and takes care of the destroyed houses of his neighbors.

This publication is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the Human Rights in Action Program, run by the Ukrainian Helsinki Group on Human Rights (UHSHR).

The views and opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID, the US Government, or UHSHR. The authors and KHPG are solely responsible for the content of this article.

USAID is one of the world's leading development agencies facilitating the end of extreme poverty and supporting the movement of recipient countries to self-reliance and resilience. USAID also contributes to the national security and economic well-being of the United States. Its activity is a manifestation of the philanthropy of the American people. USAID has been partnering with Ukraine since 1992: during this time, the agency's total assistance to Ukraine amounted to more than 3 billion US dollars. USAID's current strategic priorities in Ukraine include strengthening democracy and good governance, promoting economic development and energy security, improving health systems, and reducing the impact of conflict in the eastern regions. For more information about USAID's activities, please contact the Public Relations Department of the USAID Mission in Ukraine at tel. (+38 044) 521-57-53. We also invite you to visit their website: or the Facebook page:

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