“May the Lord answer you in the day of adversity and draw you to safety. Those bend and fall, but we remain standing and are steadfast.” In front of the people of the village of Lukashivka, the pastor reads Psalm 20 of the Bible on the dirt road, which sounds halfway between a prayer and a battle hymn. Immediately afterwards, the faithful, for several minutes in the rain with their hands folded and feet in the mud, throw themselves on the bags of bread and food that arrive from a van. Behind them are the rubble of the Church of the Ascension, which for over a month became the headquarters of the Russian soldiers. It is a scene that has been repeated every day for just over a week, since Putin’s militias withdrew under the blows of Ukrainian artillery. For over a month in that church and its surroundings, the village was transformed into the militia fort of the Russian Far East battalion: even here they tortured, killed and looted everything they could, as the archbishop major of Kiev Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church.
There was no resistance. Until then Lukashivka was a quiet place near the border north of Kiev, a stone’s throw from Chernihiv, inhabited by peasants who speak a dialect halfway between Russian and Ukrainian: out of two hundred and thirty inhabitants (another hundred had managed to escape before ) about ten were killed. Their bodies until a few hours ago were in the fields, in some houses and in the small playground in front of the churchyard, now collapsed under the blows of the battle. In the muddy and asphalt-free streets the dogs turn among the carcasses, which are satisfied with the carrion of the cows, those raised in the village. More than houses, these are shacks and in one of these Ivan Korobka, 36 years old, was taken: “They came home and said: ‘now let’s go and talk’. They sat in front of me, they asked: ‘ where are the Ukrainian soldiers? ‘. I replied that I did not know and they pulled out a dagger and began to stick it in my legs – says Ivan while showing three large wounds on his thighs and mimicking the gesture of stabbing -. Their lieutenant arrived in time. He stopped them and helped me medicate. “
Torture and soldiers like crazy splinters, a sign that the Russians in those territories were in disarray and could not fully control the troops. “Some soldiers were violent, others tried to keep them at bay,” people explain. There is no telling who got worse: a young man in his twenties was left in the cold naked and with his hands tied behind his back for hours, also guilty of not being able to give information on the Ukrainian military. On the farm of Olexander Chernenko, the militiamen broke in and shot everywhere, before sitting down.
Then they held eight civilian prisoners in the basement for a week and took away food, clothes and boots. “Even the socks,” he says. When they withdrew, they burned their own tanks before leaving Lukashivka.
The outskirts of Chernihiv are an endless torture. In Yagydne, another poor village a few kilometers away and almost all destroyed, the 380 inhabitants were held prisoner in an underground school shelter for over a month, with Russian militiamen on the surface bivouacking in their homes, taking what they wanted and meanwhile they organized the advance. Eleven civilians reportedly died of asphyxiation or heart attack and another eight killed. “By keeping the rifle pointed at us, they allowed us to bury them gradually. In order not to starve us, they gave us their food”, says Volodymyr, showing the many cardboard boxes of the Russian army’s K rations, containing jam, slices of bread and cans of meat, “while in our homes they stuffed themselves”. Here too a shepherd passes by every day. The people of the village pray, but in exchange they want the loaf of bread.
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