Hundreds of mourners, many sobbing uncontrollably, gathered on Monday at the funeral of a family of five, including three small children, burned alive in a Russian drone attack in the north-eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.
“Why did young children have to die?” Tetiana Putyatina wept before collapsing as she embraced the coffins laid out on the ground for her son, daughter-in-law and three children. Behind her, Orthodox priests intoned a hymn.
“I don’t know how I’ll live through this. I just don’t know.”
Putyatina, bundled up against the cold, held up a portrait of 10-month-old Pavlo and cried: “What was he guilty of, what did he do to Russia? Animals! May all those who support the war and this idiot [Russian President Vladimir Putin] burn in such flames in which my children were burned alive.”
Russian drones struck a fuel depot last Friday evening, triggering fires that engulfed an entire street, including the house in which the family of five lived.
Killed along with Pavlo in the attack were Oleksiy, seven, Mykhailo, three, and their mother Olha Putyatina, who worked at the local prosecutor’s office, and her husband Hryhoriy.
An elderly couple died in the same street. More than 50 people were injured and 15 homes were razed.
Comforting Putyatina was the children’s aunt, Marharyta Artiushchenko, who said relatives suspected something had happened to the family when they failed to answer phones.
“We tried to call them all night. They didn’t pick up. The neighbours said that they had left,” she said. “Then we saw photographs of their car… Mother immediately understood that they were still there. She went there by bus, we went by car.”
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Hundreds of mourners placed flowers or plush toys as they filed past the coffins in the snow-covered cemetery. Some wailed as workers laid them into the ground.
A shattered bicycle and a charred tree stood outside the ruins of the house where the family lived. And a makeshift shrine by a fence, dotted with flowers and a row of teddy bears.
“They were friendly, kind, sweet, always smiling. They were just good people,” said Viktoria Rakitina, a relative. “I’m so sorry that such good people died. These children had their whole lives to live, they hadn’t yet seen anything of this world.”
Russia did not respond to a request for comment on the incident. Moscow says its forces do not target civilian sites.