Efforts to protect the family ended in tragedy
Drone footage shows three cars speeding up an empty main street just outside Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, when they make a sudden turn and run back – all except one.
This white car turns, but then stops. A man reaches out and raises his hand. Then his body falls to the ground. Moments later, Russian soldiers arrive. An elderly woman and child leave the car, and a soldier escorts them away.
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The person on the ground was Maxim Iovenko. The 31-year-old was shot by Russian forces stationed on the roadside. His wife Ksenia who was in the car also died.
Her six-year-old son and an elderly family friend fled with her, though she was injured and remains in the hospital. (Both families asked us not to name them.)
“I had some hope until I saw the video,” Maxim’s father, Sergei Iovenko, told the BBC in Kyiv, where he lives. “I was hoping he was alive.”
The incident dates back to March 7, when Maksim and his family joined a convoy of about 10 civilian cars trying to reach Kyiv from the city’s western outskirts, which had become a conflict zone.
It was filmed by a Ukrainian regional defense group conducting aerial reconnaissance, and was widely shared.
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When a friend of Maksim, who was part of the convoy, called Sergei to tell him the news, Sergei said that he knew immediately that something was wrong. When he picked up the phone, there was silence and at last the friend said: “Stay strong, your son and daughter-in-law are gone.”
Maxim lived in Kyiv and worked for a travel agency, where he and Ksenia met. Sergei described his son as a family man with a kind heart, who loved to sing karaoke. But his biggest hobby was his family, he says. “He loved his son dearly, and that was his passion.”
Like many other Ukrainians, Sergei says he and his family did not believe Russian President Vladimir Putin would invade. Once Putin did this, Maxim thought that Kyiv would be one of the first cities to be shelled.
After discussing the situation with an old school friend, Maksim and his family visit the friend’s second home in the west, or on the outskirts of Kyiv, not far from the E-40 highway, where the shooting will take place. Maksim told his father that he thought it would be quieter there.
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“It turned out to be the opposite,” says Sergei.
While Russia’s main focus was on the east and south of the country, Russian forces began bombing towns and cities west of the capital, such as Irpin, Buka and Hostomel – where Maxim was living. Sergei says that he often heard the sound of heavy bombing from his home in Kyiv.
Maksim will not say much about the conditions of the dacha, says Sergi. “He’ll say, ‘It’s calm, it’s peaceful, all is normal.'”
Maksim and his friend, also known as Maksim, would patrol the area overnight, says Sergi. Power outages and poor mobile signal meant that regular connectivity was difficult. As the bombing continued, they went into the basement, leaving only to buy food.
Then, on March 7, he lost all power. With no electricity, heating or food, Maksim, Ksenia and other families living in the area decided to return to Kyiv. They knew they risked running into Russian troops on the highway, but thought they could cross it safely.
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Maksim’s car was the third in the convoy, which consisted of about 50 people in total, including other children. In the windows of his car, he had handwritten signs on white paper that read: “Children.” His friend was part of the same convoy, and it was his mother who was in the car with Maxim and Ksenia, and she was able to tell Sergei what had happened.
When the shooting started, Maxim’s car was hit. “The car’s engine stalled,” says Sergi. “My son jumped out of the car, raised his hand and started shouting that there is a child in the car so that the child may be saved.”
It is not clear why the rest of the convoy fell behind the first three cars, but Sergi believes that several people behind turned back when they saw the cars turning in front and heard gunshots.
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After the shooting, Maxim’s body was left on the highway and in Ksenia’s car. Maksim’s son and his friend’s mother were asked by Russian soldiers to walk back across the street. When she found a safe distance from the Russian troops, she called her husband, who had come to escort her safely. They returned to the dacha, and the next day were safely taken to Kyiv.
The boy lives with his grandmother in a safe place in Ukraine, but away from Kyiv, where Sergey lives.
On Friday, Sergei received a call informing him that the Ukrainian army had reoccupied the area. There was more bad news.
“They burned everyone. Cars were also burnt,” says Sergi.
Efforts to protect the family ended in tragedy
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(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by News East India staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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