Kyiv, Ukraine (CNN) — Russian soldiers fired on two unarmed civilians as they walked away after an encounter on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
CNN obtained surveillance video of what is now being investigated as a war crime by Ukrainian prosecutors.
Both civilians died after the merciless gunfight that goes against the so-called rules of war that forbid targeting civilians. CNN has identified the victims. One was the owner of the car dealership that was looted, whose family does not want to be named. The other was Leonid Oleksiyovych Plyats, a 68-year-old grandfather who worked as a guard there.
His daughter, Yulia, can’t bear to watch the video of the day her father died, but she is saving it to show her children one day, so they don’t forget how savage the invaders were.
“They are executioners,” he told CNN. “It’s horrible because my father was a civilian, he was 68 years old, a peaceful and unarmed man.”
The killings of civilians were captured from multiple angles
Security camera footage captures the initial Russian attempt to take Kyiv in March. On the main highway to the capital, fighting was fierce as Ukrainian forces battled Russian troops and tankers to stop the advance.
But what happened outside the car dealership on March 16 was not a battle between soldiers or even soldiers and armed civilians.
The video has been verified by CNN. It is compiled from various cameras around the property and although it has no sound, its images are clear. It was a cowardly, cold-blooded murder of two unarmed men.
In the video, five Russian soldiers are seen arriving and attempting to enter the businesses, shooting locks and breaking windows.
As the owner with his hands up approaches, the soldiers stop him and appear to search him for weapons. Then Plyats arrives and is also frisked. There appears to be some conversation before the soldiers turn around and the two civilians start walking back to their guard post.
Then at least two of the soldiers get behind the men and open fire. Both civilians fall to the ground.
CNN has requested comment from Russia’s defense ministry but has not received a response.
A top Ukrainian prosecutor says the incident is being investigated as a war crime after viewing video obtained by CNN.
In addition to the murder, the video shows much more of the unprofessional behavior of the group of five soldiers, identified as members of the invading force by their uniforms, analysis of who controlled what area at the time, and witness statements.
Men inside the dealership are seen taking off their bulletproof vests and peering through drawers and desks. A man grabs a pom pom hat from a rack and puts it on. Two men have drinks and apparently toast each other.
Grandpa tried to save himself
While the soldiers looted the shops, Plyats was still alive. The video shows him struggling to his feet, tying what looks like a tourniquet around his thigh, and limping back to his guard post.
There, get a phone to call for help.
That call went to his compatriots, more Ukrainian citizens who stayed to defend their neighborhoods.
The motley volunteer force tried to rescue Plyats, exchanging fire with Russian forces as they struggled to reach him, said the group’s commander, who did not want to be identified for his safety.
Surveillance footage shows Plyats slumped inside the guardhouse as the Ukrainians reach for him. They drag him out, leaving a wide streak of blood. He died there outside the guardhouse. The commander said he bled to death because the civilian fighters initially had to withdraw, they simply did not have the firepower to deal with the tanks and weapons the Russians had in the area.
The civilian commander said Plyats and the dealership owner had been warned that the Russians were getting closer, but chose to stay. Plyats’ daughter said that she believed in doing her duty, so she went to work. Neither of them seemed to have any idea how they would be treated when they approached the soldiers.
The volunteer fighter said that what happened has generated hatred towards those Russian troops who killed for no reason and others like them.
“It sure is a war crime,” he said. “If there is any chance of reaching them and catching them, I think they deserve the death penalty.”
Plyats’ daughter asked that his remains be cremated, as a proper burial was impossible amid the fighting. Her ashes are still waiting for her in the morgue and she hopes to one day be able to bury them in her mother’s grave. All she can do now is remember her “very cheerful” father and hope that justice will be done.
“They must be tried,” he said of his killers. “I hope in an international court. I hope that not only Ukraine but the whole world will learn about their crimes.”