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A victim of the Bucha massacre, who dreamed of becoming a popular make-up blogger, has been identified by her unique manicure that was pictured in one of the most tragic images from the Ukraine war so far.
The hand in the gut-wrenching picture, it turns out, was that of 52-year-old Iryna Filkina – an aspiring artist who posted beauty tutorials to her social media pages. She was identified after the photograph of her hand and bold red and pink nail varnish was shared widely on social media, as the atrocities in the town came to light.
But in addition to her identity being revealed, shocking drone footage released earlier this week appears to have captured the moment she was killed as she was pushing her bicycle home, wearing a blue coat. The video suggests she was gunned down by a tank seconds after she rounded a corner.
The footage showed a previously unidentified cyclist pushing their bike up the street, unaware that several Russian military vehicles lay in wait around the corner. A second video, taken a month later once Ukrainian forces had re-taken the town, showed a cyclist, also in a blue coat, in the same location lying dead on the pavement.
Since her mother was identified as the victim in the photograph, Ms. Filkina’s daughter – who fled Bucha before Vladimir Putin’s invasion – has said that she begged her mother not to cycle home on the day that she was killed, and instead flee the town as she had done. That same day, her mother had been unable to find space in a car evacuating to the town, and tried to cycle home. She was just 15 minutes away from home when she was killed.
The heartbreaking story behind one of the war’s saddest and most iconic images (pictured) has been uncovered, as Ukrainian authorities continue to count the dead in Bucha. It has been reported that this hand was that of 52-year-old Iryna Filkina, who was killed when a Russian tank gunned her down early last month
The hand in the gut-wrenching picture, it turns out, belonged to 52-year-old Iryna Filkina (pictured) – an aspiring makeup artist who posted tutorials to her social media pages. Her red and pink nails can be seen in this photograph she posted online
A Russian tank (left) is shown firing moments after a cyclist (right) turned the corner on the junction. The video, released a couple of days ago, is now thought to show the moment Iryna Filkina was killed in Bucha
The photograph showed the manicured hand of a previously unnamed woman killed during Russia’s brutal occupation of the town north-west of Kyiv. Her body was found lying on the side of the road next to her bicycle, her arm outstretched to her side. Her bold red and pink nails stood out amidst the dirt.
After the image was shared widely on social media and by new organisations, and as the tragic events inside the town at the hands of the Russian occupiers were being pieced together, the woman’s unique manicure was recognised instantly by a makeup artist in nearby Gostomel.
Anastasiia Subacheva told the New York Times that she recognised Ms Filkina’s hands and distinctive nails from her videos, as they would often be shown applying makeup, lipstick and foundation. Ms. Subacheva told the newspaper in a telephone call that her heart broke when she saw the photograph.
She said that she knew many women from Bucha as she would often travel to the town to do the makeup for many women there. ‘When I saw it, I felt physically like my heart started to break,’ she told the Times.
She said that Ms. Filkina – a heating station operator – had contacted her in February enquiring about makeup classes. Ms. Filkina said that her dream was to become a popular artists and to increase her following on Instagram, Ms. Subacheva said.
To realise her dream, Ms. Filkina wanted help to become beautiful and fashionable. The makeup artist said her client was particularly excited about an up-coming concert, for which she wanted to look her best.
Ms. Subacheva recalled that the Ms. Filkina, who is believed to have been shot on March 5 while returning from work on her bicycle, one told her: ‘I finally understood the most important thing: You need to love yourself and live for yourself.’
On Tuesday, drone footage surfaced from Bucha showing the moment a Russian tank gunned down a cyclist in the town in early March. The drone appeared to be watching a Russian tank column that was positioned in the town, but the camera also tacked the cyclist as they walked up the road that runs through a neighbourhood of destroyed or damaged buildings.
As the cyclist – now believed to be Ms. Filkina – reached a junction in the road, she turned left down a narrower street, where an armoured vehicle and a tank were positioned around 150ft away. As soon as she turned the corner into the side road, a flash was seen from the armoured vehicle’s turret.
The video shows the armoured vehicle opening fire, letting off several more shots in the direction of where she entered the side road. After several blasts, the camera zooms in, and a larger flash was also when the tank – positioned parallel to the armoured vehicle – also fires in the her direction.
By this point in the video, the view of Ms. Filkina was obstructed by a tree and some fencing after she turned the corner. However, another video taken on the street – shared by investigative agency Bellingcat and captured around a month later – reportedly showed the same junction after the attack.
A person, said to be the same as in the first video, can be seen dead – slumped on the side of the road with his bicycle – wearing a blue coat. Using geolocation techniques, the location has been confirmed to be the same in both videos – Yablunska Street – where a further 20 civilian bodies were found in recent days.
Pictured: A cyclist (circled) is seen riding up a road in Bucha, Ukraine, just one street away from where several Russian tanks and other armoured vehicles are positioned (top-left)
As the drone camera panned up from where the cyclist was, it captured a long line of several Russian military vehicles – including tanks, armoured vehicles and personnel carriers – taking cover among civilian buildings
The Russian vehicle opened fire after the cyclist turned the corner. A round is shown flying through the air towards the cyclist
A flash is seen as a tank (left) also fires after the cyclist turned the corner into the side road
Pictured: Still grabs from a video purportedly showing the aftermath of the attack on the cyclist in Bucha
Anastasiia Subacheva told the New York Times that she instantly recognised Ms Filkina’s hands and distinctive nails from her videos, as they would often be shown in posts applying makeup, lipstick or foundation (pictured)
The New York Times reported that Ms. Filkina’s daughter, Olha Shchyruk had fled Bucha soon after Vladimir Putin’s invasion on February 24. Ms. Filkina stayed behind.
Russian forces moved into the region a few days later, which saw heavy fighting between Moscow’s troops and Kyiv’s. The town was ultimately lost, but has since been reclaimed as Ukrainian forces pushed Russia’s back north.
Ms Shchyruk, 26, said that she was told of her mother’s death on March 6, but posted in a Telegram channel that she was holding out hope that she may still be alive.
‘I understand that it wasn’t possible, because she hadn’t been in touch for a month,’ she wrote on a post last week. ‘But a child will always be waiting for her mother.’
On Friday, she said she was sent a video that showed her mother lying on the ground. The daughter said even without the recognisable nails, she would have no trouble identifying her mother.
According to the New voice of Ukraine, she is now waiting to bury her mother’s body, but must wait until forensic examinations have been carried out.
Ms Shchyruk also posted a lengthy message to Instagram, along with pictures of her mother. In one, the pair were shown hugging in a swimming pool.
‘Today is exactly a month since the day they took offense against her. And all I can do is just cry, sometimes even that doesn’t work,’ she wrote, adding that her mother was killed about 15 minutes away from her home.
‘To other people and those who watch the news, this information hits a little different. Some people even doubt that this was real. As for me, this is a living picture that rises in my head, again and again. The war came not only to my country. It came to my house and took, no, to be more precise, stole…my universe,’ she said.
The New York Times reported that Ms. Filkina’s daughter, Olha Shchyruk had fled Bucha soon after Vladimir Putin’s invasion on February 24. Ms. Filkina stayed behind
The daughter said Ms. Filkina was found dead on her birthday. ‘You made it possible to find you on your birthday, but I still can’t even take your body away, because there are so many (victims) there and they took you all together somewhere,’ she wrote.
‘They don’t say where, and they don’t say if they have you. They don’t know because unfortunately there are so many of you there. They need to know how you died.’
Speaking to CNN, Ms Shchyruk said she begged her mother not to cycle home on that day, and instead leave the area on a train.
She said her mother tried to get a seat in a car leaving Bucha on March 5, but there wasn’t enough space. Instead, she said, she decided to cycle home.
The images and stories tumbling out of Ukrainian towns like Bucha in the wake of the withdrawal of Russian troops bear witness to depravity on a scale recalling the barbarities of Cambodia, the Balkans, World War II.
Ukrainian officials are currently gathering evidence of Russian atrocities in Bucha and other cities, amid signs Moscow’s troops killed people indiscriminately before retreating.
Pictured: An image posted by Ms Shchyruk to Instagram with her mother, who she said was killed on March 5. She said the day she found out her mother had been killed would have been her birthday
Ukrainian authorities said the bodies of least 410 civilians were found in towns around Kyiv, victims of what President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said was a Russian campaign of murder, rape, dismemberment and torture.
Some victims had apparently been shot at close range and Some were found with their hands bound.
Mr Zelensky accused Russia of interfering with an international investigation into possible war crimes by removing bodies and trying to hide other evidence in Bucha, north west of Kyiv.
‘We have information that the Russian troops have changed tactics and are trying to remove the dead people, the dead Ukrainians, from the streets and cellars of territory they occupied,’ he said during his latest video address. ‘This is only an attempt to hide the evidence and nothing more.’
Switching from Ukrainian to Russian, Mr Zelensky urged ordinary Russians ‘to somehow confront the Russian repressive machine’ instead of being ‘equated with the Nazis for the rest of your life’.
He called on Russians to demand an end to the war ‘if you have even a little shame about what the Russian military is doing in Ukraine’.
A man pushes his bike through debris and destroyed Russian military vehicles on a street on April 6 in Bucha, Ukraine
A member of the Ukrainian army stands next to a mass grave in front of an Orthodox church, in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, Ukraine, April 6 2022
Since Bucha, a chorus has resounded at the highest levels of Western political power calling for accountability, prosecution and punishment for war crimes in Ukraine.
On Monday, Zelensky denounced the killings as ‘genocide’ and ‘war crimes,’ and U.S. President Joe Biden said Putin was ‘a war criminal’ who should be brought to trial.
But the path to holding the Russian president and other top leaders criminally responsible is long and complex, international lawyers caution.
‘Certainly, the discovery of bodies which bear signs of executions – such as gunshot wounds to the head – presents strong evidence of war crimes,’ said Clint Williamson, who served as U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues from 2006 to 2009.
‘When victims are found with their hands bound, with blindfolds and bearing signs of torture or sexual assault, an even more compelling case is made. There are no circumstances under which these actions are permitted, whether the victims are civilians or military personnel who had been taken prisoner.’
Residents look at destroyed Russian military machinery on the street, in Bucha, the town which was retaken by the Ukrainian army, northwest of Kyiv, Ukraine, April 6
A burned car next to destroyed houses, in Bucha, the town which was retaken by the Ukrainian army, northwest of Kyiv, Ukraine, April 6
Meanwhile, a US defence official said on Wednesday that Russia had pulled all of its estimated 24,000 or more troops from the Kyiv and Chernihiv areas in the north, sending them into Belarus or Russia to resupply and reorganise.
They are expected to return to fight in the east of the country, where Russia has said it intends to focus its military efforts in a new phase of the invasion.
Growing numbers of Vladimir Putin’s troops, along with mercenaries, have been reported moving into the Donbas.
‘Later, people will come under fire,’ Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in urging civilians to evacuate from the mostly Russian-speaking industrial region, ‘and we won’t be able to do anything to help them’.
Ukrainian forces have been fighting Russia-backed separatists in the Donbas since 2014. Ahead of its February 24 invasion, Moscow recognised the Luhansk and Donetsk regions as independent states.
Another Western official said it may take Russia’s battle-damaged forces as much as a month to regroup for a major push on eastern Ukraine.
In his nightly address on Wednesday, Zelensky also warned Russia’s military is gearing up for a new offensive in the east.
Ukraine too was preparing for battle, he said.