war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Life is like a horror movie

25.10.2023    available: Українською | На русском
Oleksandr Vasyliev
I used to hear the expression: “Your blood runs cold,” but now I feel what it means. This is how Tetiana Vasylenko, a resident of the village of Stoianka, recalls the first days of a full-scale war. The woman could not evacuate and spent almost a month in a village blocked by Russian troops.

The first day of the full-scale Russian invasion

Before the war, I was still working. At 5 in the morning, I was going to work at ATB [ATB-Market], and suddenly, I saw that the entire Zhytomyr highway was lit, and many cars were driving. When I came closer, I realized that this was probably war. We met with colleagues, but no one understood anything. We called our manager, who told us to return home because the war had started. People who had the opportunity immediately left Stoinka, and we stayed until 19 March. These were tough times, and such hell was going on here! The Russians destroyed “ATB”, “Silpo”, and “Mary Kay”, and missiles flew directly overhead. There was no electricity, no gas, and the water was frozen.

Every day is like hell

We didn’t know what awaited us, and the sounds of shelling were driving us crazy. The tanks were roaring, and something terrible was happening in the forest. And it was every day, the same thing. You sleep dressed, and you get up dressed, and to be honest, it was impossible to sleep from fear. We hid in the basements with our neighbors. At times, there were such shellings that we thought we would never get out of the basements, but this is how we survived.

Tetiana Vasylenko, resident of the village of Stoianka

We didn’t evacuate because we didn’t want to leave the dog

We had no way to evacuate. Firstly, we didn’t have a car, and secondly, Russians were already around. We couldn’t go on foot, so what could we do? On 19 March, my daughter gave me a car, and we took a detour. When we were stopped at checkpoints, everyone was surprised how we lasted so long in Stoinka — without food, water, light, and heat. But before we couldn’t leave, because we have a dog, and no one wanted to take animals in the car.

We decided to go when my daughter said she had turned gray in two days from worrying about how we live here under shelling. During the evacuation, we lived with my sister in the Zhytomyr region. It was relatively quiet there; sometimes, planes flew over, and something exploded somewhere far away, but it was much calmer than in Stoianka. It was terrifying; even now, it’s very difficult to recall. I’ve heard the expression before: “Your blood runs cold,” but now I’ve experienced what that means. The roar of rockets overhead will not be forgotten even years later. I’ve only seen this in horror films. But horror films take a break compared to what happened here.

Destroyed gas station KLO near Stoianka

War crimes

I know that the Russians tortured people at Stoianka-2; they looted and killed. They don’t feel sorry for anyone. I still can’t believe they did this, but I hate them. In general, I don’t consider them people. Are these people?! People cannot act like that; even animals don’t act like the Russians.

Relatives in Russia

My niece lives in Russia, and we used to talk with her. But when the war started, everyone suddenly disappeared, and no one called or inquired. Until now, no one has called and asked how we are doing. I don’t even have the desire to convince them. How can you convince a person when their consciousness is “upside down”?! They do not admit their guilt, and I think they will never admit it.


Many houses were damaged. Some are left with only the foundation and scorch marks. There is destruction in almost every house. But the main thing is that people are alive, and everything else will be rebuilt.


Everyone hopes to win. Everyone is waiting for it. And it will definitely come. Will the occupiers rule us? No way! This will never happen. Everyone will stand up, and we will fight to the last. There will only be victory. Maybe not today, not tomorrow, but it will definitely happen.

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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