“I’ll drive 20 tanks into the village and it stops existing” – Andriivka occupation in Chernihiv region
Andriivka village is located 25 km to the south of Chernihiv, and the distance to the state border with the Republic of Belarus – is about 30 km. There were 663 inhabitants before the start of the hostilities. But, in February-March 2022, lots of people arrived from other parts of the region who were trying to save themselves from war, and at the time under discussion, there were about 1000 people.
Before the occupation of the village, 24-25th February there was a chance to get to Chernihiv and transport goods even. However, on 27-28th February, Russian troops entered the hromada of Mykhailo-Kotsiubynske. After that, the way to Cherhiv was completely cut. The mobile connection was disappearing frequently. Problems with the food began. There was no supply of medicine. One of the locals says that he gave away flour and oil for the citizens and they had to grind and crush it themselves.
Next to 6 am., on 24th February citizens of Andriivka heard explosions from the side of Honcharivske village, later during the day – from the side of Chernihiv. They were preparing for the possible occupation of the village as well: dwellers organized the patrol and followed the arriving cars, they were planning to stand against the Russian forces so they made Molotov cocktails, packed food into boxes, and hid it in the basement.
The dwellers were hoping that Russians won’t enter the village due to its geographical location and absence of strategic objects. But on 20th March, Russian machinery entered. They entered the village from the side of Mykhailo-Kotsiubynske, villages of Slabin, Levkovychi, and Shestovytsia. There was a constant hum of machinery. After that, people started to leave en masse. There was no asphalt road, so we drove through the fields.
Immediately, 6 checkpoints were created by Russians on 20th March 2022. You could leave the village only through one checkpoint. Russians took the phones too. Entered houses. Displaced and hold people illegally, for instance, the head of the village.
Invading the village, occupants settled next to the schools at the location of the not functioning rehabilitation center “Vital”. They located the headquarters there. The Russian military also settled in the houses of locals. They took the houses they liked even if they were inhabitants. According to preliminary calculations, there were about fifty Russian troops in the village, who lived about 6 people in the house.
Two of the Russian military who were moving on the motorcycle called themselves Russian police and were there to follow that ‘Russian military did not cause any harm”. However, it didn’t prevent the occupants from looting and committing other crimes. According to the testimony of locals, the possession was moved by Kamaz trucks from the village; they took linen, cutlery, electrical machinery, generators, kettles, washing machines, fridges, etc. Russian forces also robbed the rehabilitation center “Vital” where they placed their headquarters as well as a former machine-tractor station. They took food in the houses of dwellers, they took everything they wanted. They stole a lot of private possessions of people.
The head of Andriivka village was stopped at the checkpoint by Russian forces when he was returning from another location. The villagers informed the head about the occupation of the village and that he was searched for. But he decided to arrive anyway. His phone was taken, he was blindfolded and put inside the Russian car “Tiger”. There have been two tied men already who drove for the bread in the morning. They were brought closer to the center of the village, they dropped them off and took them to different cars for interrogation for 2 hours. They were asking almost the same questions during each interrogation. Russians threatened to shoot and asked if the men saw the “nazis” there. At night, tied men were placed on the premises without heating – it was cold and men didn’t sleep. Their eyes and hands were tied all the time. The next day, 21st March, men were freed and introduced to the new commandant of the village “Armen” who released the men after.
Commandant “Armen” threatened the locals. He said that if any of his soldiers would be wounded or killed, or something would be hit there, he would “drive 20 tanks into the village and it would stop to exist”. He also demanded that people did not turn on the light when it got dark otherwise they would shoot.
One day, shots from an assault rifle were heard in the village. Later, it turned out that the local “homeless guy” went for a walk somewhere in the evening. Russian military who caught him wanted to kill him but, luckily, they just took the homeless to dig the trenches for them.
Russians were also looking for the individuals who took part in the Anti-terrorist operation in the east of Ukraine. In one family’s house, the pins of the “Pravyi sector (Right sector)” were found, and they started the full search there. Russian military threatened to shoot the man and clicked their shutters when they saw written codes for placing the order at the site (for the household items) as well as the lithium-ion battery that was in the camouflage bag with headphones next to it. This family managed to leave the village. After the family left, the Russian soldiers were coming to their household every two days.
Interestingly enough, the Ukrainian flag was hanging all the time during the occupation next to the hromada district. The commandant “Armen” told the villagers to continue their work as it…
30.03.2022 about 14:00 Russian forces left the village. There was shelling that day due to which the village was damaged, two houses were burnt down and two electricity lines were hit which caused the fire of dry grass and two barns. These fires were extinguished after the Russians left.
Local citizens were also witnessing the shelling of Chernihiv. Between the village Andriivka and Mykhailo-Kotsiubynske, there was Russian military equipment in the quarry and in the forest (up to 12 vehicles, including self-propelled artillery systems and Grads) that were shooting at Chernihiv. People saw how Grads were flying to Chernihiv and heard explosions.
The Ukrainian military entered the village on 3 April 2022 and completely freed Andriivka.
Educational Human Rights House – Chernihiv documents war crimes in Chernihiv regin with support Prague Civil Society Centre.