25 photos of Yahidne, the sacked Ukrainian village where the Russians locked more than 300 inhabitants in a cellar: many did not survive

Yahidne residents are seen inside a school basement one day after the departure of Russian troops in the village of Yahidne, near Chernihiv, Ukraine.  March 31, 2022. Many continued to sleep in the school basement as their homes were ransacked and destroyed
Yahidne residents are seen inside a school basement one day after the departure of Russian troops in the village of Yahidne, near Chernihiv, Ukraine. March 31, 2022. Many continued to sleep in the school basement as their homes were ransacked and destroyed

Residents of Yahidne in northern Ukraine say that at the beginning of the invasion the Russians behaved well, offered to share their food and expressed surprise at the appearance of the city. But it lasted very little. They started stealing almost immediately. “They started looting, they took everything they could,” said Petro Hlystun, 71, who witnessed the scene. “There was a flashlight, a tablet that my son brought from Poland. They took everything. “

A drawing is seen on a wall inside the school basement in Yahidne, near Chernihiv, Ukraine, April 6, 2022. REUTERS / Marko Djurica
A drawing is seen on a wall inside the school basement in Yahidne, near Chernihiv, Ukraine, April 6, 2022. REUTERS / Marko Djurica

On March 5, residents said yes ordered to go to the basement of the school where they would spend the next 25 days, with short breaks to relieve themselves or stretch their legs. The Russian soldiers told them that the confinement was for their own protection.

They described it they shared the buckets as a toilet and slept in turns in the small, cramped rooms, as there was not enough space for everyone to lie down.

Petro Hlystun, 71, gesticulates in front of the destroyed houses in his village, Yahidne REUTERS / Marko Djurica
Petro Hlystun, 71, gesticulates in front of the destroyed houses in his village, Yahidne REUTERS / Marko Djurica

“It was almost impossible to breathe”, said Olha Meniaylo, an agronomist who said he was in the basement with his 32-year-old son, his wife and their grandchildren, a 4-month-old and an 11-year-old.

He said Russian soldiers asked for a list of the people in the basement to organize food and he had counted 360. Others said there were over 300 people.

“It was difficult for the elderly to stay there in the dark without fresh air, so it was mostly the elderly who died.”

People stand outside a school basement entrance as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, in the village of Yahidne, near Chernihiv, Ukraine, April 6, 2022. REUTERS / Marko Djurica
People stand outside a school basement entrance as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, in the village of Yahidne, near Chernihiv, Ukraine, April 6, 2022. REUTERS / Marko Djurica
One of the cramped places where Yahidne Olha Meniaylo residents spent 25 days / Pantry via REUTERS
One of the cramped places where Yahidne Olha Meniaylo residents spent 25 days / Pantry via REUTERS
Ivan Balanovych smokes a cigarette with his friends in front of a damaged school as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, in the village of Yahidne, near Chernihiv, Ukraine, April 6, 2022. REUTERS / Marko Djurica
Ivan Balanovych smokes a cigarette with his friends in front of a damaged school as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, in the village of Yahidne, near Chernihiv, Ukraine, April 6, 2022. REUTERS / Marko Djurica
The makeshift beds can be seen inside the school basement (REUTERS / Marko Djurica)
The makeshift beds can be seen inside the school basement (REUTERS / Marko Djurica)

He said the first burial occurred after the murder of a man and four elderly men who died in the basement on March 12. Russian soldiers allowed some young men to dig shallow pits.

“As soon as they started digging, there was shelling,” Meniaylo said. “The people who were digging had to lie down on the corpses in the graves to protect themselves from the bombing. My husband was there. “

Oleksandra Potii cries as she looks at the remains of the village in front of the school where they were confined to Yahidne REUTERS / Marko Djurica
Oleksandra Potii cries as she looks at the remains of the village in front of the school where they were confined to Yahidne REUTERS / Marko Djurica
Vitalii Udod, a volunteer from Kiev, helps collect the bodies of war victims in Yahidne.  The number is still undetermined REUTERS / Marko Djurica
Vitalii Udod, a volunteer from Kiev, helps collect the bodies of war victims in Yahidne. The number is still undetermined REUTERS / Marko Djurica
Ivan Balanovych, sitting in a now vacated corner of the basement that housed more than 300 people during the Russian invasion REUTERS / Marko Djurica
Ivan Balanovych, sitting in a now vacated corner of the basement that housed more than 300 people during the Russian invasion REUTERS / Marko Djurica

A morning, a woman who had a cow was escorted to bring milk for the children. Others were occasionally allowed to go out at the whim of Russian soldiers. When they got home, the Russian soldiers had brought with them everything from televisions to women’s underwear.

Words
The words “March 2022” are carved into a wall inside a school basement, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, in the village of Yahidne, near Chernihiv, Ukraine, April 6, 2022. REUTERS / Marko Djurica
You see a drawing on a wall inside a school basement, with the words
A drawing is seen on a wall inside a school basement, with the words “Underground, bank and boom”, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, in the town of Yahidne, near Chernihiv, Ukraine, 6 April 2022. REUTERS / Marko Giurica
Chairs and tables are seen inside a school basement, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, in the village of Yahidne, near Chernihiv, Ukraine, April 6, 2022. REUTERS / Marko Djurica
Chairs and tables are seen inside a school basement, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, in the village of Yahidne, near Chernihiv, Ukraine, April 6, 2022. REUTERS / Marko Djurica
Other makeshift beds in the basement of the REUTERS / Marko Djurica school
Other makeshift beds in the basement of the REUTERS / Marko Djurica school
The entrance to the basement of a school is engraved with the words
The entrance to the basement of a school is marked “Be careful, children” REUTERS / Marko Djurica SEARCH
Tamara Klymchuk, 64, sitting in the school basement
Tamara Klymchuk, 64, sitting in the school basement

The latest victim recorded on the cellar walls, Nadiya Budchenko, died on March 28, Tolochina said, two days before Russian troops withdrew from the village when their advance towards the Ukrainian capital was halted.

In addition to those, mostly elderly, who died of exhaustion in the suffocating and cramped conditions, Tolochina named others who he claimed were killed by Russian soldiers, including Viktor Shevchenko and his brother Anatolii, known as Tolya.

Yahidne residents are seen inside a school basement one day after the departure of Russian troops in the village of Yahidne, near Chernihiv, Ukraine.  March 31, 2022. Residents continued to sleep in the school basement as their homes were destroyed.  Olha Meniaylo / Brochure
Yahidne residents are seen inside a school basement one day after the departure of Russian troops in the village of Yahidne, near Chernihiv, Ukraine. March 31, 2022. Residents continued to sleep in the school basement as their homes were destroyed. Olha Meniaylo / Brochure
Like in a prison, the marks of the past days have been left on this basement wall REUTERS / Marko Djurica
Like in a prison, the marks of the past days have been left on this basement wall REUTERS / Marko Djurica
Halyna Tolochina stands in front of a wall on which a calendar and the names of the people who were dying were posted inside the basement where they were confined.  to the left of the gate - people killed by Russian troops, to the right - those of those who died of causes
Halyna Tolochina stands in front of a wall on which a calendar and the names of the people who were dying were posted inside the basement where they were confined. to the left of the door, the people killed by the Russian troops, to the right, those of those who died of “natural” causes due to imprisonment and their previous pathologies. The first of them, Dmytro Muzyka, died on March 9 REUTERS / Marko Djurica
Tolochina shows the place where he spent most of his confinement
Tolochina shows the place where he spent most of his confinement
One of Yahidne's buildings was destroyed by fire during the invasion
One of Yahidne’s buildings was destroyed by fire during the invasion
Another sector of the city where ruins and a destroyed vehicle are visible
Another sector of the city where ruins and a destroyed vehicle are visible
Tamara Klymchuk, 64, carries her belongings left over from the Russian invasion:
Tamara Klymchuk, 64, carries her belongings left over from the Russian invasion: “We had a good life,” she said. His 50-year-old grandson, Viktor Shevchenko, was one of the villagers killed by the Russians. “We never thought that so much pain could hit us”

All photos from Marko Djurica’s Reuters agency, except where noted

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