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Ukrainian man found out via Twitter that his family, trying to flee, had been slain

Serhiy Perebyinis made 3-day journey back to Kyiv to bury wife and kids aged 9, 18; ‘I saw a photo. I recognized their things and their clothes,’ he told CNN

Ukrainian servicemen try to help people wounded, in the town of Irpin, Ukraine, March 6, 2022. (Andriy Dubchak/AP)
Ukrainian servicemen try to help people wounded, in the town of Irpin, Ukraine, March 6, 2022. (Andriy Dubchak/AP)

A Ukrainian father who lost his wife and two children to Russian shelling as they attempted to flee to Kyiv last week, said he learned of their deaths from photos on Twitter.

Serhiy Perebyinis wasn’t with the family when they died earlier this month in a civilian refugee corridor while trying to flee the suburb of Irpin for the capital.

After driving for three days and breaking into the site where their bodies were, he managed to bury his family and two pet dogs, he told CNN in an interview Thursday.

His wife, Tatiana Perebyinis, 43, was a chief accountant at a Silicon Valley startup with headquarters in London and a large workforce in Kyiv. Also killed were their daughters, Alise, 9, and son, Nikita, 18, along with a church volunteer who was helping them, Anatoly Berezhnyi, 26.

Perebyinis said he last spoke to his wife the night before her death. “That was the day when already there was no water, electricity, gas, and we discussed — I spoke to her at 10 p.m., even though at that point there was no connectivity either. But I managed to get through and had a discussion about potential evacuation,” he said.

He told CNN that the next morning there was “unusual” activity on their location on Google Maps.

“I noticed that there was an unusual geolocation between Kyiv and their pin. And then 20 minutes later, her phone moved to another location, to a hospital in Kyiv. And I suspected something was wrong,” he said.

Photographs and videos broadcast worldwide showed their bodies lying next to their suitcases and a dog carrier.

“And then I saw a photo on Twitter, and I recognized my children. I recognized their things and their clothes. And I called my friends to say that the children are dead. Their bodies are lying on [the] pavement,” he told the network.

Perebyinis said his kids were “normal, cheerful children.” His 18-year-old son was in his second year of university. He wanted to become an IT professional. “My daughter was nine years old. She liked dancing, painting. She studied English.”

Russia has denied targeting civilians, although airstrikes hit three hospitals in Ukraine on Wednesday. On Thursday a strike destroyed a theater in the city of Mariupol, under which around 1,000 people are believed to have sheltered. Rescue efforts are ongoing, and no deaths have been announced.

According to the UN human rights office, there have been 1,900 confirmed civilian casualties from the start of the war on February 24 to March 15, comprising 726 people killed, including 52 children, and 1,174 injured — with the actual number likely much higher.

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