The case was opened under the crimes against humanity article and may be sent to the Hague-based International Criminal Court, he said.

Branovytsky fought at Donetsk Airport and was taken prisoner and killed by separatists on Jan. 21 when they were seizing the airport’s new terminal.

The event follows numerous other reports on torture and murders allegedly committed by Kremlin-backed militants.

Branovytsky’s coffin was carried by soldiers to Kyiv’s Mikhailovsky Cathedral for a memorial service on April 3. A crowd of about 200 people, including his relatives and comrades-at-arms, gathered and chanted “heroes do not die” – a slogan of the 2013-2014 EuroMaidan Revolution.

Branovytsky, a soldier of the 90th battalion of the 81th brigade, remained at the airport’s new terminal to protect the wounded, Anatoly Svyryd, a sergeant at the same battalion, told the Kyiv Post during Branovytsky’s funeral.

Both Branovytsky and Svyryd were taken prisoner by the Russian-backed Sparta battalion on Jan. 21. Svyryd was taken to a hospital in Donetsk, while about 12 prisoners, including Branovytsky, were transferred to the barracks of the Sparta Battalion in the city.

“We were beaten (by Kremlin-backed militants) for six to seven hours in a row,” Yury Sova, an eyewitness of the killing and a fighter of the 80th paratrooper brigade who was also transported to the battalion’s barracks, said by phone. “Branovytsky was beaten brutally, and a lot of his bones were broken.”

A YouTube video posted on Jan. 21 shows Russian-backed militants questioning the prisoners, including Branovytsky. In the video, his face is bloodied and bruised.

The militants asked the soldiers who was a machine gunner, and Branovytsky said that he was one and added that he supported a united Ukraine, Sova said. Separatists have reportedly targeted machine gunners because of their capacity to kill more Russian-backed fighters.

An ambulance came to take Branovytsky but “Motorola (the commander of the Sparta battalion) took out a TT pistol and shot him,” claiming that it was an act of mercy to prevent his suffering, according to Sova.

Branovytsky’s life could have been saved if he had been taken to a hospital, Sova added.

“Motorola, a Russian citizen, bandit and murderer, told everyone to get up,” Vovk said. “Ihor couldn’t get up. (Motorola) said that (Branovytsky) didn’t need any ambulance, that he was himself an ambulance, and shot him twice in the head.”

Motorola said by phone that he would not comment on Branovytsky’s murder.

“I don’t give a shit about any accusations, believe it or not,” Motorola said. “I’ve shot 15 prisoners. I don’t give a shit. No comment. I kill whoever I want.”

Sova and Svyryd were luckier than Branovytsky. They were subsequently held in the basement of the former Security Service building in Donetsk and released as part of a prisoner swap.

Vovk said that Motorola was a suspect in the Branovytsky case and might be tried in absentia, though the Security Service thinks there is a chance to detain him. Over 600 people have been questioned in connection with the case.

“We will bring to justice everyone who does things that a normal person can’t even imagine,” he said. “This murder was committed (not only by Motorola but also) by the leaders of those terrorist groups and their supervisors in the neighboring country (a veiled reference to Russia).”

Ukrainian authorities will try to put Motorola and other possible suspects in the Branovytsky case on an international wanted list, Vovk said.

Branovytsky’s fellow soldiers share a positive view of him.

“Ihor is a real warrior and a real man,” Svyryd said. “He was not a show-off. Not all people are brave enough to say flat out what he said.”

Pavel Tuka, a soldier of the 90th battalion of the 81th brigade, agrees with Svyryd. Tuka and Branovytsky were drafted by Kyiv’s Pechersk enlistment office last August.

“He was an incredibly smart guy and a very just one,” Tuka told the Kyiv Post. “And sometimes this became an obstacle for him. He was a kind man and was always ready to help.”

Stanislav Stovban, a fighter of the 80th brigade’s 3rd battalion, is one of the wounded whom Branovytsky helped at the airport.

“I’m alive thanks to him,” Stovban, who has to use a wheelchair because of his injuries, told the Kyiv Post. He was released by separatists as part of a prisoner swap on Feb. 5.

Kyiv Post staff writer
Oleg Sukhov can be reached at
[email protected]

Separatists questioning Ukrainian prisoners of war at Donetsk Airport on Jan. 21. Branovytsky’s face is bloodied and bruised.

Separatists questioning Ukrainian prisoners of war at Donetsk Airport on Jan. 21.

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