Amid the ongoing war in Eastern Europe, a Ukrainian man has detailed his harrowing fight after he was allegedly shot in the face and buried alive by Russian soldiers.
Speaking to CNN, Mykola Kulichenko revealed that he and his brother, Yevhen and Dmytro, were shot and buried by Russian troops, three and a half weeks after Russia invaded their country. The 33-year-old said that his home was targeted by the Russian military on March 18 as they hunted for the Ukrainians responsible for bombing Russian Troops nearby.
Mr Kulichenko told the media outlet that he and his siblings were made to kneel in the front yard while the Russian troops searched the home - looking for anything that would link them to the bombed convoy. Once they found military medals their grandfather owned and a military bag belonging to Yevhen, who had been a paratrooper, the soldiers were convinced they had something to hide.
The 33-year-old, along with his two brothers, was then driven to a basement where they were interrogated for three days. Mr Kulichenko revealed that on the fourth day, when he was hoping the Russians would release them, they beat him with a metal rod and put a barrel of a gun inside his mouth. The 33-year-old said that he and his brothers were tortured until they lost consciousness.
The three men were blindfolded, restrained and loaded into a military vehicle to be taken to an isolated plot of land. They were made to kneel, blindfolded, while a pit was dug, Mr Kulichenko told CNN.
First, he reportedly said, he heard a shot behind him, and his eldest brother, Dmytro, fell to the ground. Next, he felt Yevhen drop by his side. Then, Mr Kulichenko was shot, however, he said that he was lucky enough to survive because the bullet entered his cheek and exited next to his right ear. This is when he knew that his only hope of survival was to play dead.
According to Mr Kulichenko, the Russian soldiers kicked the bodies into the pit, covered with mud and left. He doesn't know how long he lay buried alive, but he somehow managed to manoeuvre his way out from under his brother's corpse and back to the land of the living.
Mr Kulichenko told CNN, "It was hard for me to breathe since Dima (Dmytro) was lying on top of me, but using my arms and knees, I was able to push my older brother off to the side of the pit, and then I climbed out."
Further, Mr Kulichenko revealed that he then staggered through fields to the nearest house, where a woman took him in and cared for him overnight before he was able to get back to his sister, who had been anxiously waiting for days at their father's home.
“I was lucky... and now I have to just go on living," he said, adding, "This story needs to be heard by everyone, not just in Ukraine, but around the world because these kind of things are happening and this is just one in a billion."
CNN reported that Mr Kulichenko's story could only be told once the Russian retreat from the Chernihiv region began in early April. The 33-year-old said that his brothers, Dmytro and Yevhen, were later given a proper burial and were laid to rest beneath elaborate tombstones in a well-tended grave.