A Ukrainian man was waiting anxiously to hear from his family members, who were evacuating their town near Kyiv, when he saw their bodies in a photo on Twitter, he told The New York Times in an interview.
Images circulated around the world show four people lying bloodied and motionless on the pavement in Irpin, Ukraine, after they were fired on by Russian troops.
Three of them were Serhiy Perebyinis’ loved ones: his wife, Tatiana, his 18-year-old son, Mykyta, and 9-year-old daughter, Alisa. The fourth was Anatoly Berezhnyi, a 26-year-old church volunteer who was helping the family, according to the Times.
“I recognized the luggage and that is how I knew,” Perebyinis told the newspaper.
Times photographer Lynsey Addario captured a widely viewed image of the four civilians that appeared on the paper’s front page.
Perebyinis, a computer programmer, was not with his family because he was caring for his mother in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, he told The Washington Post. He said his two dogs had also died.
“I lost everyone and lost the meaning of life,” he told the Post, calling what happened to his family a “war crime.”
Tatiana Perebyinis was the chief accountant for a software company headquartered in London, SE Ranking. The company said Monday it was devastated to learn of her death.
“There are no words to describe our grief or to mend our pain,” the company said, adding that it was crucial to them that the family did not become “statistics.”
“Her family became the victim of the unprovoked fire on civilians, which under any law is a crime against humanity,” the statement read.
On Sunday, as residents of Irpin were trying to flee the area, Russian forces fired mortar shells on the city, including a bridge being used by evacuees, killing at least eight people, including Perebyinis’ family.
Video from the moment of the strike shows a Ukrainian soldier standing outside a building before a sudden blast. As the debris and dust clear, soldiers can be seen running to a number of bodies on the ground. Someone is heard screaming for a medic, and a dog can be heard barking and howling.
Ukraine has accused Russia of indiscriminately shelling heavily populated areas and violating agreements on humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians. On Wednesday, at least three people, including a child, were killed after a Russian airstrike on a hospital in the city of Mariupol, the city council said.
At least 549 civilians have been reported killed in the Russian invasion, though the real figure is likely higher, according to the United Nations.
Perebyinis told the Times he felt it was important that his family members’ deaths were recorded on camera. “The whole world should know what is happening here,” he said.
Read his story in The New York Times.