‘I want to confess everything’ Journalists identified four Russian soldiers accused of crimes against civilians. Two of them agreed to speak.
Abridged translation by Sam Breazeale.
At the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russian troops launched an assault on the Kyiv region. As commanders struggled to coordinate an attack on the capital itself, ill-equipped and confused Russian soldiers in multiple villages forced residents out of their homes, stole valuables and appliances, and killed civilians indiscriminately. In late April, the occupying troops retreated in a hurry, leaving witnesses and physical evidence of their atrocities behind. On August 15, the Russian investigative news outlet iStories published an investigation that includes interviews with multiple soldiers involved in crimes against civilians in the village of Andriivka. With permission, Meduza is publishing a translated summary of the investigation.
The investigative outlet iStories has determined the names of multiple Russian soldiers involved in theft, looting, and killing civilians in Andriivka, a village in Ukraine’s Kyiv region. Andriivka was occupied by Russian troops from February 27 until late April. Journalists learned the names of four soldiers who took part in the occupation by examining 25 photographs from a local resident’s phone that was taken by the soldiers and left behind when they retreated.
Russian soldiers took the photos in and around the home of local resident Anatoly Danilenko. On March 13, they forced Danilenko’s family — Anatoly himself, his wife, and his 95-year-old father-in-law — out of their home. Once the soldiers left, Anatoly’s father-in-law’s military medals, a TV, and multiple appliances were gone.
The soldiers in the photographs are Daniil Frolkin, Dmitry Danilov, Ruslan Glotov, and Ivan Shepelenko, all of whom belong to Russia’s 64th Motor Rifle Brigade. The photos show them posing with weapons, with a pipe, and with the military medals on their chests.
Local residents identified the soldiers from the photos. According to resident Tatyana Udod, Daniil Frolkin and other soldiers stole the gray Lada vehicle that she and her husband had planned to use to evacuate. Other village residents said that the soldiers used the car to transport men who later were killed or went missing.
Another soldier, Dmitry Danilov, used a stolen red moped to travel around the city, according to Andriivka native Tatyana Tkachenko. She also said Danilov was one of ten residents who took a VCR from the home of an elderly man named Ivan on Shevchenko Street. Multiple village residents said that Danilov would not allow them to bury people who died during the occupation.
13 bodies found with gunshot wounds and other signs of violence in Andriivka. More than 40 people missing.
According to local residents, Russian soldiers summarily executed over a dozen civilians. The following are just some of the murders described in the iStories report:
- On March 2, Russian soldiers arrived in a tank at the home of local resident Igor Yermakov and took him away “to their commander,” Yermakov’s wife recounted. On March 4, Yermakov was found dead with gunshot wounds and other signs of violence. According to Yermakov’s wife, he may have been killed for having pictures of Russian military equipment on his phone. Yermakov was initially buried in a garden outside of his home; after Russian troops withdrew from the village, he was transferred to a cemetery.
- On March 12, childhood friends Vitaly Kibukevich and Vadim Ganyuk were killed on Andriivka’s Sloboda Street. Kibukevich signed up to serve in the Territorial Defense Forces at the beginning of the war, while Ganyuk had no connection to the army, according to his relatives. Photographer and videographer Ruslan Yaremchuk was killed on the same street the same day. According to Yaremchuk’s daughter, the Russian soldiers may have suspected her father of giving the Ukrainian military data about Russian troop movement. All three men were buried in the courtyards outside of their homes.
Three Andriivka residents who spoke to iStories said that after March 12, multiple Russian soldiers bragged about having killed three people on Sloboda Street. Local resident Tatyana Tkachenko reported overhearing one soldier tell another, “We took out three guys on the next street over.” Tatyana and her husband, Mykola, recognized one of the soldiers as Daniil Frolkin.
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General suspects Frolkin of “violating the laws and customs of war.” Investigators have accused him of killing a civilian in Andriivka, stealing an automobile from another civilian, and stealing Soviet and Ukrainian medals from a World War II veteran. The Ukrainian investigative news outlet Slidstvo.Info spoke to a Andriivka resident named Vasily, who claimed to have seen Frolkin shoot a kneeling Igor Yermakov in the head on March 2.
Two of the soldiers from the photos agreed to speak
During a call with journalists, Danilov claimed not to have taken the VCR that a local resident accused him of stealing, but he did admit to riding someone’s red moped around the village. During the occupation, he said, he and his fellow soldiers “constantly searched for people who had given out coordinates [of Russian military equipment].” When they found people they suspected, Danilov said, they would “conduct an ordinary interrogation, after which they would return them home by means of a POW exchange.” He denied any involvement in the civilian murders that took place in Andriivka, and said that the soldiers only took “random shit” from people’s homes, such as wine, beer, groceries, and a grill. He also denied taking military medals from Anatoly Danilenko’s home, saying the soldiers “came, took pictures, and put the medals back.”
Frolkin said that Russian soldiers did loot items from stores. Colonel Vyacheslav Klobukov, for example, stole refrigerators, according to Frolkin. “Then they found stores with sneakers and all kinds of clothes, and they took all of that too. Drove it off in trucks. I saw the trucks again when we arrived in Belarus,” he said.
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After initial denials, Frolkin confessed to killing a man in Andriivka
During his first conversation with journalists from iStories, Daniil Frolkin denied having killed any civilians in Andriivka, including Igor Yermakov. Two hours later, Frolkin called the journalists back and asked them to record the conversation. He then stated that he participated in “the execution of civilians.” In the film iStories produced about the investigation, Frolkin can be heard confessing:
I, [...] Daniil Andreyevich Frolkin, confess to all of the crimes I committed in Andriivka: to executing civilians, to stealing from the civilian population, to confiscating their phones, and [I confess that] our command does not give a fuck about our fighters or any of our infantry who are fighting on the front lines. And after that, I want to call for measures to be taken to punish the commanders: Colonel Azatbek Asanbekovich Omurbekov, Lieutenant Colonel Sergey Dmitrenko, Deputy Commander for Supply and Logistics [Vyacheslav] Klobukov, and Chief of Intelligence Lieutenant Colonel Denis Romanenko. He was responsible for the operation that fucked up the intelligence gathering and led people to their deaths. Also, Deputy Brigade Commander Lieutenant Colonel [Andrey] Prokurat gave the order to shoot.
When asked to clarify the details of the “execution,” Frolkin said that in March (he doesn’t remember the exact day), the commanders asked multiple soldiers to accompany them on searches of the homes of three Andriivka residents.
We took [the residents] to three homes; they showed [us where] the homes [were]. There were other people’s photographs in the homes. Meaning that these homes weren’t actually theirs. The third [resident] really lived in a dump. They had a wad of cash: hryvnias, dollars, all kinds of shit. The Lieutenant Colonel who was with us, Alexander Prokurat, took the money for himself, and gave the rest of it — their documents and phones — to us, saying, “shoot ‘em.” And that was it — I went and shot [one of the people].
According to iStories, the details of Frolkin’s account indicate that he’s talking about the murders of Vitaly Fibukevich, Vadim Ganyuk, and Ruslan Yaremchuk on March 12. The investigative outlet reported that Frolkin himself likely shot Ruslan Yaremchuk. Frolkin was unable to identify the man from a photograph, but another Russian soldier who saw the image of Yarmchuk claimed that Frolkin killed him.
Daniil Frolkin said that the man who he killed had given information about the coordinates of Russian military vehicles to the Ukrainian military. According to Frolkin, the man confessed to doing it:
We tell him, “Tell the truth, fucker — we’ll shoot you right now.” He goes, “I came from Kyiv the day before yesterday. They asked me to send the convoys’ coordinates.” I just took him outside. We found bullet cases that only officers use on him. And that was it. I tell him, “Walk forward.” He goes forward. I say, “On your knees.” Then it was a bullet to his head. After that, I shook for a long time. I’d killed one person, but I wanted to save as many people as possible.
Frolkin said that in the seven months since the war began, he’s “saved 86 people and killed one.” He claimed he decided to confess to everything for the sake of “the guys” (Russian soldiers) who will soon be sent to the front in Kherson. “Our guys will be spared — they’ll be taken out [of Ukraine] because of me. Better to destroy one life than to end 200–300 lives. I know all of these guys. The 50 people who are left from our battalion are good guys, and I don’t want their lives to be ruined,” he said.
In late July, Daniil Frolkin left the Belgorod region for Khabarovsk Krai, where he submitted his resignation from the army.
I realize I may be put in jail for all this information. Not even for the fact that I committed all of this vile shit in Ukraine, but for the information [about the commanders]. I just want to confess to everything and explain what’s going on in our country. I think it would be better if this war had never started.