As Russian forces attempted to move closer to Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, last week, residents of the nearby town of Irpin began evacuating en masse. Evacuees fled over a decimated bridge, which had previously been blown up by Ukrainian forces in order to slow down Russian troops. On Sunday, Russia launched a mortar attack on the evacuation point, killing several civilians.
Photos taken by New York Times reporter Lynsey Addario, which ran on the paper’s front page and circulated widely online, showed a woman, a man, and two children lying on the ground, their luggage and belongings strewn around them, as Ukrainian soldiers attempted to provide aid. All four would later be pronounced dead.
The family in the photo have been identified as Tetiana Perebyinis, 43, and her two children Mykyta, 18, and Alisa, 9. They were accompanied by Anatoly Berezhnyi, a 26-year-old church volunteer who was aiding them in their journey.
Tetiana Perebyinis worked as the chief accountant for SE Ranking, an SEO software company with offices in London, Palo Alto, and Kyiv. The company confirmed her death in a Facebook post.
Serhiy Perebyinis was in eastern Ukraine caring for his mother, who was recovering from COVID-19, when his wife and children attempted to flee. Once the fighting began, he was unable to leave the region. Perebyinis spoke to the Times about his family, saying he apologized to Tetiana for not being with them.
“I told her, ‘Forgive me that I couldn’t defend you,’” he told the Times. “I tried to care for one person, and it meant I cannot protect you.”
Her response? “She said, ‘Don’t worry, I will get out,’” Serhiy said.
As the war in Ukraine enters its third week, the toll on civilians has been increasing. “We’ve seen very credible reports of deliberate attacks on civilians, which would constitute a war crime,” U.S. secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday on CNN. The United Nations said Wednesday that it has recorded 516 civilian deaths, including 37 children, in the conflict so far, but “the real figures are considerably higher.”
Mariupol, a port city located in the southeastern part of the country, has been under siege for days, enduring multiple air strikes while coping with a lack of electricity and heat. A maternity hospital was bombed on Wednesday, with officials reporting that three people, including a young girl, were killed in the attack; another 17 people were injured. A city university was also struck by Russian forces. The Associated Press reports that the city is preparing to dig mass graves to accommodate the vast number of casualties.
Talks between Ukrainian and Russian officials about a cease-fire and attempts to evacuate civilians and provide humanitarian aid have repeatedly fallen through with no signs of progress.
In a speech following the bombing in Irpin, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed that there will be consequences for those who attacked and killed Ukrainians.
“We will punish everyone who committed atrocities in this war,” he said. “There will be no quiet place on this earth for you. Except for the grave.”
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