The 10-year-old Ukrainian girl shot twice by Russian soldiers on the same day

Grandmother of Katia Vinarska shows photo of the 10-year-old, shot dead by Russian forces in Ukraine.
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NOVYI BURLUK, Ukraine — Katia Vinarska was puzzled when Russian soldiers opened fire on her grandparents’ car.

“Grandma, have a look,” the 10-year-old said, according to her grandmother Maria Kivshar, recalling that chaotic afternoon. “I have a hole here.”

Why the Russians shot at their vehicle, Maria can’t say.

“Maybe they wanted to warn us and shoot at the middle seat, where Katia was sitting,” she said. “I don’t know.”

Tears streaming down her face, she could hardly speak but said she wanted the world to know what happened the day Katia died.

The child’s killing is one of many only now coming to light as Russian invasion forces have been pushed out of Ukraine’s eastern Kharkiv region.

Vira Blokha, village head of Novyi Burluk, Ukraine, outside school occupied by Russian forces. Anna Vlasenko/Global News

A village of about 500 people located 75 kilometres east of Kharkiv, Novyi Burluk was liberated by the country’s armed forces on Sept. 10.

During six months of occupation, Russian troops killed several residents and looted cars, trucks, electronics and even clothing.

“They took everything that it was possible to transport,” Vira Blokha, the village head of Novyi Burluk, said in an interview.


“They asked us about girls, and at that moment a lot of people started to leave the village.”

Maria Kivshar, whose granddaughter was killed by Russian soldiers, in Novyi Burluk, Ukraine. Maria Kivshar, whose granddaughter was killed by Russian soldiers, in Novyi Burluk, Ukraine. Anna Vlasenko/Global News

The troops crashed a wedding venue and shot up the shop in front of it, she added. When her son-in-law took photos of the damage, they killed him. His name was Pavlo Radkivskyi, she said.

He was 39 and had two children, aged three and nine.

He was buried by his brother Serhii Radkivskyi, who later became a soldier and died in the Donetsk region, another tragedy for a small village coping with so many of them.

Katia was an only child, a miracle born after her mother had several miscarriages. She weighed only 860 grams at birth.

“She dreamed about being a doctor,” her grandmother said. She liked dolphins and knew all about Chornobyl.

She lived with her parents in Kharkiv — Ukraine’s second-largest city — but when Russian troops entered the area on Feb. 24, they sent her to stay with her grandparents.

During the initial hours of the war, Novyi Burluk was quiet, and her parents reasoned she would be safer there.

Her grandfather, Mykola Kivshar, picked her up in Kharkiv and they drove out of the city, skirting bridges that had been blown up and stopping at checkpoints.

Maria Kivshar shows photo of her car after it was shot up by Russian troops, killing her granddaughter. Anna Vlasenko/Global News

At 2 p.m. the next day, he and Katia picked Maria up at work.

“I asked him not to leave Katia alone, she was scared after the night explosions,” Maria said.

The road was empty, and everything was quiet when they started driving. Later, they saw two armoured columns, one on each side of the main road.

They got some 100 metres before the shooting started, and Katia was shot in the belly.

When they called for help, a young Russian soldier saw Katia was injured. He gave her first aid and told them to get to a hospital within three hours.

The Russians also gave them a white cloth to fly and flares to use to signal their presence so they could get to the next village safely.

Katia Vinarska, 10, was shot twice by Russian troops on the same day and later died. Anna Vlasenko/Global News

They headed for the hospital in Chuhuiv, but only got as far as the outskirts of Bazaliivka village, 20 km from their home.

“We stopped around 50 metres from the Russian column,” Maria said. “There was a warning shot. Then my husband went to them, and I saw something, then I set off the flares, taking out the car window.”

What happened next is not entirely clear, even to Maria. She said she got out of the car while Katia sat in the front seat.

Gunfire erupted, and Maria was struck in the chest, while her husband was hit in the hand, leg, and head. He also had a concussion. “We were ambushed and shot,” said Maria.


They tried to flee, but their car wouldn’t start. A Russian military truck stopped to pick them up, and when the grandfather lifted up Katia, a soldier said, “Two hundred.”

“I didn’t pay attention to that,” Maria said.

The truck took them to the outskirts of the next village, Prymorske, which was half the way back to their home. They walked the last kilometre to the Prymorske, carrying Katia in their arms.

“I moved her head and found the hole near her ear. At that moment I realized what two hundred meant,” the grandmother said.

They realized then that Katia had been shot a second time, fatally this time: shot by two soldiers in two villages, all in a single day.

From Prymorske, they managed to call a doctor, who confirmed the worst: Katia was dead.

The next day, Maria was taken to the hospital in Velykyi Burluk. En route, she saw wrecked armed vehicles and the bodies of soldiers at the spot where yesterday Russians left them.

Maria Kivshar, a resident of Novyi Burluk, Ukraine, shows her x-ray, showing the bullet lodged in her lungs after Russian troops opened fire on her car. Anna Vlasenko/Global News

Maria showed a reporter a photo of her X-ray and the bullet lodged in her lungs.

Her husband refused to go to the hospital, however. He wanted to bury Katia, so he made her a grave in their garden.

After the Russians left, they buried her again, this time in the village cemetery.

“Grandfather lay two days at her grave. He tried to hang himself and said he doesn’t want to live because he lost his grandchildren,” Maria said.

Now they are waiting for Ukrainian war crimes prosecutors to exhume the body once again, so a proper investigation can be conducted.

Grave of Katia Vinarska, Novyi Burluk, Ukraine. Anna Vlasenko/Global News

While the Russians occupied Novyi Burluk, the town lost half its population.

Locals survived by eating crops from their gardens. Ukrainian humanitarian aid halted mid-summer. In the meantime, farmers helped with milk.

The first Russian troops to arrive were Buryats from Siberia, Blokha said. They left the village two days into the invasion.

They were replaced on March 18 by soldiers from the Donetsk People’s Republic, an enclave invaded and occupied by Russia in 2014.

The troops took over the local school.

School occupied by Russian invasion forces in Novyi Burluk, Ukraine. Anna Vlasenko/Global News

“Soldiers from the DPR did not insult us. But when Buryats came again, they started to steal everything from the houses – all electronics, cars, throwing out everything from the wardrobes. They tore locks from cellars,” Blokha said. “They took everything that it was possible to transport.”

One of the local men provided information to the Russian soldiers, she said. He was arrested by Ukrainian security services after the village was liberated last month.

Vira said she lived in constant fear. They scared her by sending her to a torture site in Vovchansk, she said.


They asked her to provide them with a list of ex-soldiers and those needing humanitarian assistance, but she refused.

“Ara, their commander, came to me and said, “Come here, we will kill you,’” she said, but it was apparently a joke.

They boasted they would seize Kharkiv by Aug. 24. “Ukraine won’t be here again,” they told her, according to Blokha.

Blokha showed Global News the venue where a wedding is planned and the shop out front where her son-in-law is killed before moving to the cemetery, where a pink backpack marks the grave where Katia rests.