A Russian lieutenant was killed by his comrades for assisting Ukrainian civilians, according to a report in the independent Russian outlet Verstka.
The Russian officer, Ivan Levankov, was executed by his own unit on February 24, for helping to hide refugees on the first day of the invasion — and his killing was covered up and spun as pro -Russian propaganda, the outlet said.
As Russian forces approached Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv, Levankov’s unit encountered Karolina Perlifon, a 29-year-old Ukrainian returning home to the suburbs from the city, Verstka reported.
In an Instagram post the next day, Perlifon said she and her mother were driving in the car when they encountered a Russian roadblock.
“They started firing at our car,” Perlifon wrote. “We turned into a dead end and jumped out.”
Perlifon said two Russian soldiers approached the car and told them to hide behind some nearby concrete blocks. The Ukrainian and her mother huddled there for 15-20 minutes before the Russians opened fire, she said.
“[My] mom was wounded in the arm – I heard her scream in pain,” Perlifon said. She said Levankov — one of the soldiers who’d guided her to safety — threw her to the ground and shouted to the others, “Do not shoot! We’re [friendlies]!”
Perlifon said Levankov was immediately shot dead and collapsed on top of her.
A second barrage of fire injured the second soldier and mortally wounded Perlifon’s mother.
Perlifon said she stayed hidden until the soldiers moved on, at which point she and the wounded Russian soldier escaped.
That soldier, Valery Vasilyev, was treated at a Ukrainian hospital and ultimately interrogated by Ukrainian intelligence.
Vasilyev told the Ukrainians that his unit’s political officer, tired of Ukrainian civilians arguing with the roadblock, had told the unit to fire on any approaching non-combatants.
When the unit noticed that Vasilyev and Levankov were helping to hide Perlifon, they turned their weapons on their countrymen
“The Lieutenant Colonel noticed that we were rescuing civilians with the [Levankov],” Vasilyev said, “and he gave the order to shoot at us.”
Russian media, however, told a different story. Referring to Levankov as an “unknown soldier,” Russian state media said he was a hero — who tried to protect Ukrainian civilians from their own military’s shelling, bolstering the Russian narrative that the invasion was in fact a humanitarian mission.
“This soldier was with us,” Perlifon told Verstka, “and he was shot by his own people.
“Therefore, of course, it is easier for them to bury it, to bury it – and let no one know about it or even remember it,” she added. “What about telling the truth? They won’t say it in real life.”