Body of Ukrainian Writer Killed By Russians Left Outside for Month: Report

Award-winning Ukrainian children’s author Volodymyr Vakulenko’s body sat outside for more than a month after Russian soldiers allegedly killed him earlier this year, according to local media.

Ukrainian broadcasting corporation Suspilne reported late Monday it received photographic evidence and DNA examination results indicating that Vakulenko, a children’s writer and poet best known for writing Daddy’s Book, was killed earlier in 2022 in Kharkiv.

The Kharkiv region in eastern Ukraine has been the site of intense combat throughout the nine-month conflict.

Vakulenko is the latest high-profile individual who has died during the war launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24. Putin’s military has faced international condemnation for the war, including for alleged human rights abuses and the alleged killing of Ukrainian civilians.

He was first reported missing in a village near Izium in March. The Ukrainian Office of the Prosecutor General said in April it believes he was kidnapped by Russian forces, the office wrote in a Telegram post.

Author Volodymyr Vakulenko killed by Russian soldiers
In this image, apartment blocks in Izium, where award-winning children’s book author Volodymyr Vakulenko’s body was found, are seen on October 24. Ukrainian officials and media confirmed that Vakulenko was killed by Russian troops earlier in the invasion. His body was left outside for more than a month and was discovered when Ukraine retook the city in September.
Carl Court/Getty Images

When Ukrainian troops retook control of Izium in September, they discovered a mass burial site where local authorities discovered hundreds of bodies—including one who shared a similar arm tattoo to Vakulenko, Suspilne reported. His identity has since been confirmed by a DNA test.

Sergey Bolvinov, the head of the Investigative Department of State Police in the Kharkiv region, wrote in a Facebook post that Vakulenko died from being shot by Russian soldiers in the spring.

The exact date of Vakulenko’s death was not immediately known, but witnesses who buried Ukrainians in Izium were reportedly told to bury his body on May 12—and his body had been sitting outside for at least one month prior, according to Bolvinov.

“Witnesses noticed bullet holes in the body and shot documents of the Ukrainian writer. The body had been outside for more than a month,” he wrote.

Russian authorities have not publicly commented on accusations that their soldiers killed the writer. Newsweek reached out to the Russian Ministry of Defense for comment.

Volodymyr Vakulenko Remembered as Children’s Author, Father

Following the news of the popular Ukrainian writer’s death, many mourned him on Twitter—also acknowledging that he leaves behind a son.

“Volodymyr Vakulenko wrote one of the most popular Ukrainian children’s books – Daddy’s Book. Upon learning about his death, many parents in Ukraine went numb today. You never know when it hits you hardest,” tweeted journalist Myroslava Petsa

“Today it became known that the Russians killed the Ukrainian writer Volodymyr Vakulenko. The results of the DNA examination were reported to his mother. How vile the words ‘burial 319’ sound when it comes to a human, a writer, a father who alone raised a son diagnosed with autism,” tweeted Ukrainian poet Iya Kiva.

“Children’s writer Volodymyr Vakulenko was kidnapped and killed by 🇷🇺. His body was found in a mass grave in Izyum. He was the laureate of numerous literary awards. Vakulenko was left with a son. The child has a disability and needs help. Dad was almost never separated from son,” tweeted Victoria Yastrub.

Stary Lev Publishing House wrote in a Facebook post that it planned to republish Daddy’s Book, a collection of children’s poems that was first published in 2014. All profits from the book will be donated to his family.

“It is important that Volodymyr’s creative legacy lives on, so Stary Lev is republishing Volodymyr Vakulenko’s collection of children’s poems Daddy’s Book, first published in 2014 and illustrated by Natalka Haida,” the publisher wrote.

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