A Russian plane crashed into a Ukraine house, dealing out death randomly

CHERNIHIV, UKRAINE (NYTIMES) – It was Ms Yulia Hrebnyeva’s fastidiousness that saved the lives of her family.

First, she sent her husband outside to fix the lock on the door of their house. Then she brought her children down to the basement, insisting that they help her tidy the space where they had been sleeping every night to avoid the Russian missile attacks.

And that’s when a Russian Su-34 fighter plane crashed through the roof of their two-story home.

A few blocks away, Mr Vitaliy Serhienko was not so fortunate. The pilot of the downed Russian plane had ejected. Mr Serhienko and his brother-in-law, Mr Serhiy Tkachenko, heard footsteps on their roof, and went out to investigate. “We wanted to catch him,” Mr Tkachenko said.

The two men were approaching the source of the noise from opposite directions when Mr Tkachenko heard gunfire. The pilot had shot Mr Serhienko in the chest; he died in his own chicken coop.

Tragedy and serendipity are dispensed randomly in war, and on March 5, when a Russian plane fell from the sky, they produced two very different results in Chernihiv, a city in Ukraine’s north. One family lived, almost miraculously, while Mr Serhienko, in the wrong place at the wrong time, ended up dead.

There was an added element in the equation: The Russian pilot did not have the chance to drop his bombs.

“If these bombs had fallen on Chernihiv, there would be so many more victims,” Ms Hrebnyeva said as she surveyed the wreckage still in her yard more than two months after the crash. “Our house stopped it.”

Mr Serhienko’s sister, Ms Svitlana Voyteshenko, buried him the next day. “He was such a good man, he worked hard,” she said. “Everyone liked him.”

The crash claimed yet another life when the flames spread to a house across the yard from Ms Hrebnyeva and an elderly, bedridden man was burned to death.

Chernihiv, located just 40 miles (64km) from Belarus and 55 miles from Russia, was quickly surrounded at the start of the war, besieged by Russian troops invading from both sides.

The attacks were fierce. Russian forces intentionally bombed critical infrastructure like water and electricity stations, as well as food storage, said Mr Oleksandr Lomako, head of the Chernihiv City Council, but never gained full control of the city centre.

Mr Lomako said that prosecutors had recorded 350 people killed as a result of missile strikes, and he estimated that another 700 had died of causes related to the siege: lack of electricity, water, and food.

The outrage at the devastation and death that Russia had inflicted was simmering among residents when the pilot catapulted out of the plane. Members of Chernihiv’s Territorial Defence, a volunteer army unit, heard the explosion, said one soldier, Ivan Lut. He raced to where he thought the pilot might land, saw the orange and white parachute hanging over the house and began his own chase, he said.

The pursuit ended next door to Mr Tkachenko’s home when the Russian pilot, named in an intelligence investigation as Major Alexander Krasnoyartsev, was apprehended.


This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.