A boy watched Russians kill his parents. Will it be considered a war crime?
After Russian soldiers killed his parents in front of him soon after the invasion began, 10-year-old Andriy Bliznyuk hasn’t been able to sleep alone. “He is a
SOFIIVKA, Ukraine — After Russian soldiers killed his parents in front of him soon after the invasion began, 10-year-old Andriy Bliznyuk hasn’t been able to sleep alone.
“He is a traumatized child,” his maternal grandfather, Oleksandr Chernoval, said.
On March 1, Andriy, his mother, Oksana, father, Mykhailo Bliznyuk, and uncle Serhiy Salivon were trying to escape the advance of the invading troops near the capital, Kyiv, when the boy says they encountered a column of Russian tanks.
According to Andriy, one of the tanks rumbled over and crushed their beige Audi with all of them inside. In a bizarre act of mercy, Russian soldiers plucked him from the car after he waved his hand from the wrecked vehicle, he says. Then, he says, they opened machine-gun fire on the car.
Andriy says he remembers lying on the side of the road as the car burst into flames. His mother, father and uncle were dead. A stranger found him and took him to a hospital, he says.
The deaths of Andriy’s parents and uncle are just one of more than 30,000 alleged Russian war crimes being investigated by Ukrainian prosecutors. Kyiv has accused Russia of comitting acts that violate the laws of war since the early days of the Feb. 24 invasion, including deliberately targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure. Moscow has denied targeting civilians, despite what Ukraine says is evidence of entire towns being destroyed by the Russian army.
“Ukraine: The Search for Justice” airs Friday, Sept. 16th at 10 p.m. ET on MSNBC.
Since that moment six months ago, Andriy has spent many nights next to his grandfather.
“He is afraid of anything in the house — doors, curtains, shutters — being open,” his grandmother Kateryna Chernoval says, her eyes wet with tears.
He is too scared to go to the toilet by himself, she added, and needs someone to stand next to him.
Other than Andriy, there were no eyewitnesses to his family’s deaths. The wreckage has since been removed and family members were able to bury their loved ones’ remains.
Ukrainian authorities said they are investigating the incident as a potential war crime.
Before and after
Wearing a green Gap sweatshirt with long sleeves on a sunny summer day, Andriy helps his grandmother pick strawberries and spring onions in Sofiivka, a village some 50 miles east of Kyiv.
Before the war, he lived with his mother and father in the Kyiv suburb of Brovary. He loved school, especially math, gym and computer science classes, he says with a smile. The fourth grader kept pet turtles and a sizable collection of toy cars, and went on fishing trips with his dad.
Andriy’s eyes light up as he remembers how his mother would take him to school. She eventually let him cross the street on his own.
He recalls that she grew flowers and his dad repaired cars as a hobby.
He picks at his fingers and his smile turns nervous when asked about that fateful morning on March 1. He grows quiet and avoids questions about his new life with his older sister, Tetyana Muravska, 26, who is now his legal guardian.
While the adults surrounding him openly shed tears while talking about how his parents died, Andriy never cries.
“Everything is fine,” he says when asked how he is doing.