“I tell him to walk forward. He walks forward. I tell him, ‘On your knees.’ And I just shoot him in the head.”
Daniil Frolkin, a 21-year-old Russian corporal, is making a startling confession: He murdered a Ukrainian civilian.
The Russian military has been accused of countless atrocities during its invasion of Ukraine. Many incidents have been documented beyond a reasonable doubt. But a straightforward admission of guilt by one of the perpetrators, openly and on video, may be unprecedented.
Frolkin and three other Russian servicemen took part in the occupation of the village of Andriivka, about an hour outside Kyiv. The area was taken over by the Russians as they advanced on the Ukrainian capital in the early days of the war.
When they retreated in defeat just over a month later, the Russians left hundreds of destroyed and looted houses, over a dozen dead bodies, and one curious artifact: a cell phone full of photographs they took while occupying Andriivka.
It was this clue that enabled reporters from IStories, OCCRP’s Russian member center, to identify Frolkin and the others. A correspondent traveled to Andriivka to interview locals and reconstruct the details of the crimes committed there.
Then she called the Russians and confronted them with what she had learned. One of them denied everything, but later called her back. He wanted to confess to it all: the killing, the looting, the pointlessness of the whole endeavor. Most of all, he wanted to name the commanders he said were responsible for leading Russian troops into a war that “should never have happened at all.”
Paul Grover/Alamy Stock Photo
The ruined village of Andriivka after the Russian occupation.
Lost and Found
In early March, a Russian APC pulled up to the home of an elderly Ukrainian couple, Leonid and Tatiana Udod.
“We are looking for the main Banderovite,
Stepan Bandera was a nationalist leader from what is now western Ukraine who is often invoked in Russian propaganda as an archetype of Ukrainian fascism.
“ the soldiers said, climbing out.
“My husband is called a ‘Banderovite’ by everyone in the village as a joke,” Tatiana Udod explained. “Somehow the nickname stuck. He’s not a nationalist, he’s just from Western Ukraine.”
Tatiana’s husband, 76-year-old Leonid, came out to meet the Russians.
“Boys, the only ‘Banderovite’ here is me,” he said.
“No, you’re not the right age,” the soldiers answered with disappointment. They had evidently been looking for a younger man, perhaps someone of military age. But they still confiscated the couple’s cheap smartphone.
The Udods never expected to see it again, but two months later, after the Russians had withdrawn from the area near Kyiv, it reappeared. It had been abandoned in a local house, where a resident found it and turned it in.
Tatiana Udod with her recovered phone.
When Leonid got it back, charged it, and turned it on, he found a surprise: It contained 25 photos of four Russian servicemen in various celebratory poses — wearing medals, posing with guns, and smoking a pipe.
Using open-source investigative techniques, reporters managed to identify the young men. All four — Daniil Frolkin, Dmitrii Danilov, Ruslan Glotov, and Ivan Shepelenko — are members of the 64th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade, based near the Russian city of Khabarovsk.
Many residents of Andriivka remember their faces. These soldiers, they told reporters, were involved in robbery, looting, and the general threatening mayhem that enveloped their village over that terrible month.
The top row of photos are from the Udods’ stolen phone; the bottom row are from open sources. Daniil Frolkin, 21, is a driver and mechanic originally from the Altai region. Dmitry Danilov, 21, pictured with an American shotgun he probably confiscated from a local resident, is a sniper from the Amur region. Ruslan Glotov, 20, wearing a sweater he looted in Andriivka, is a driver. Ivan Shepelenko, 21, is from the far eastern Chuktoka autonomous okrug.
‘Disappear From Here by Morning’
After arriving in Andriivka at the end of May, a reporter first set out to uncover where the photos had been taken. With some help from locals, she eventually came across a place that matched the scenery: a two-story brick house and yard that belonged to a man named Anatoly Danilenko.
According to the metadata, the photos were taken on March 14 and 15. As Danilenko recalls, it was on March 13 that he, his wife, and his 95-year-old father-in-law — a decorated veteran of World War II — had been forced to leave their home.
“They told us: ‘Disappear from here by morning.’ We were getting ready, but at four in the afternoon they came to kick us out,” he recalled. “As we were leaving, my father-in-law said to the Russian soldier: ‘I fought so that your mother could give birth to you, and now you’re doing this.”
By the time the Russians had withdrawn a month later and Danilenko’s family was able to return, his father-in-law’s World War II medals were gone. So were two TV sets, a microwave, an electric oven, and a stock of cat food. The ceiling was full of bullet holes; the walls were splattered with dark red stains — the remains of Danilenko’s homemade cherry liqueur, he suspects.
Danilenko didn’t see the medals again until they appeared in a photograph on the Udods’ stolen phone. Frolkin, one of the Russian soldiers, was wearing them. In another picture, his comrade Glotov wore Danilenko’s sweater.
In exchange, the Russian soldiers left behind detritus: Empty shells on Danilenko’s lawn, and a damp set of clothes in his barn. He found a drab green ‘Army of Russia’ shirt, camouflage pants, boots, dirty socks, and worn-out Calvin Klein underpants.
In one of the pants pockets he found Velcro chevrons bearing the name ‘Frolkin.”
It wasn’t just the Danilenko family who had to deal with looting — many residents of Andriivka were robbed of food, household appliances, vehicles, and alcohol. The Udods’ neighbors lost two scooters, a bicycle, a laptop, and a chainsaw. In addition to the stolen cell phone, the Udods were also robbed of their car, an old gray Lada.
“There was this nasty redhead guy. He said, ‘We‘ve come to fight against Zelensky and the Nazis.’ I said, ‘But we’re not Nazis.’ He gave me a look. And that was it, they took the car away.”
– Tatiana Udod
“They told me, ‘You should have left earlier,’” Tatiana Udod recalls. “There was this nasty redhead guy. He said, ‘We came to fight against Zelensky and the Nazis.’ I said, ‘But we’re not Nazis.’ He gave me a look. And that was it, they took the car away.”
Tatiana recognizes the “redhead” in the photos on her husband’s phone: Daniil Frolkin.
Several villagers remember seeing the Udods’ Lada being driven around the village by Russian soldiers. Some say they saw it used to transport men who were later killed or disappeared. After the Russians left, Tatiana and Leonid found the car smashed to pieces on the outskirts of the village.
The Russians in Andriivka weren’t only driving the Lada. Another resident, Tatiana Tkachenko, recalls soldiers taking a stolen jeep for a joyride around the village and crashing it into the wall of an apartment building. Another soldier liked to race through the village on a red moped and even once offered her a ride. Tkachenko immediately recognizes him in the photos from Udod’s phone: It’s Dmitry Danilov.
Ivan and Valentina, an elderly couple from Shevchenko Street, recall that soldiers once came to them with an unusual request.
“Ten of them came,” says Ivan. “I come up to them. ‘Father,’ he says, ‘do you have a DVD player?’ What am I going to say, no? … ‘I’ll give you the money or I’ll bring it back,’ he says. I said, “No need.” I know what money means. He’ll take the money out and I’ll get a bullet in the head.”
Ivan says he recognizes Dmitry Danilov in photographs from the phone as the man who took his DVD player. Other Andriivka residents also recognize Danilov in the photos, remembering that his fellow soldiers addressed him as “Sniper.”
“They took everything from people here,” recalls pensioner Nadezhda Savran. “My neighbor Vovka had a saw for cutting firewood. An imported, small, neat saw. I saw one of them walking around with it afterwards.”
“Vovka” — Vladimir Pozharnikov — lost more than the saw during the occupation. He was shot and killed by the Russians.
The Dead of Andriivka
In late February, shortly after the invasion began, a Russian tank skidded off the road and hit a fence behind a bus stop on Andriivka’s main street. Villagers set to work stealing ammunition and equipment and trying to break the electronics inside so the tank would no longer be operable.
Igor Yermakov, who lived nearby, may have been suspected of this kind of sabotage, although it’s unclear whether he was involved. But on March 2, a group of Russian soldiers drove up to his house.
“They broke the window here and then started shooting at the doors,” recalls Igor’s wife, Tatiana. “Two of them came in through the window, then two more came through the door. They said [to Igor]: “You’re wanted by the commander.”
“They took him out, and I never saw him again.”
Tatiana could not leave the house until that evening, because the lock on her door had been jammed by the gunfire. When she finally managed to get out through a window, she fell to her knees in front of a soldier on duty outside.
“For God’s sake, tell me, is he alive?” she recalls asking.
“They’re talking to him. He’s alive. Go home,” the soldier told her.
It wasn’t until two days later that she learned the truth. On March 4, a soldier came to Tatiana and said: “Go and look, isn’t that your husband by the transformer?”
Tatiana ran there. She found Igor shot dead with his hands tied behind his back.
“He didn’t have a face anymore. It was all blue, and his head bashed in,” she recalls. “And then they shot him again in the back of the head.”
“He didn’t have a face anymore. It was all blue, and his head was bashed in.”
– Tatiana Yermakova
On March 13, the Yermakovs’ house was destroyed by a direct shell hit. Almost all the couple’s joint photos, memories of a happy 24-year marriage, were burned to ashes. Russian soldiers took their phones.
Only on their daughter’s phone did a few pictures survive. In one photo, Igor and Tatiana hold their smiling granddaughter in their arms.
Left – the damaged gates of Yermakovs’ house. Right – Igor Yermakov with his wife Tatiana and their granddaughter.
“You know, we try not to talk about it, so we don’t disturb each other. But I know that it must be told,” Tatiana says, fidgeting with the handkerchief around her neck and trying not to cry. “Ashes in the soul.”
The same day Tatiana found her husband’s body, soldiers came to the house of the Ishchenko family. At 10:30 in the morning, 23-year-old Anton was taken away. Days later, his body was found in the village, bearing bullet wounds and other signs of violence.
“They said that they were taking him for two hours,” his grandfather Petro cries. “I waited all night, he didn’t come back…. I waited all day, he didn’t come back.”
His family still doesn’t know why he was taken away.
Social media, family archives
People killed by the Russian soldiers in Andriivka. Top row: Anton Ishchenko, Igor Savran, Vladimir Pozharnikov, Ruslan Yaremchuk, Evgeny Stepanuk, Yury Kravchenya, Andrei Rudenko. Bottom row: Vadim Ganyuk, Vitaly Kibukevich, Aleksei Cherkovskiy, Igor Ermakov, Ivan Rybitsky, Evgeny Piskotin.
Three Killings on Sloboda Street
A week after the murder of Igor Yermakov and the disappearance of Anton Ishchenko, on March 12, two old friends, Vadim Ganiuk and Vitaly Kibukevich, were shot on Sloboda Street, where they lived near each other.
A neighbor, Yury, watched from his window.
“A car pulls up, three soldiers get out. They knock on the door, Vitalik opens it, and so they go in. After some time, two come out: Vitalik and one of the soldiers. They go toward the barn. Then I hear a short burst of gunfire, and one [soldier] comes back. Then two of them took out some kind of package, put it in their trunk, and drove to Vadim’s. Fifteen minutes passed, and again I hear a burst. And that’s it — they got in the car and drove off.”
Elena Kibukevich, Vitaly’s widow, who had managed to get out of the village a few days earlier, stayed in touch with her husband and last spoke with him just a few hours before he was killed. She says he never mentioned being searched or interrogated.
“They tied his hands, and with his hands tied they shot him in the legs,” she says. “Then in the shoulder, and then in the head. We found five shell casings. I imagine the pain he suffered.”
Vitaly Kibukevich’s widow shows a family photo.
The bodies of Kibukevich and Ganyuk were left where they fell: Vitaly in his yard, Vadim in his basement.
Natalia Simoroz, a sales clerk at the local store, went with Vitaly’s relatives to ask the Russian soldiers for permission to bury the men. One of them replied: “Want us to bury you along with them?”
Natalia recognizes that man in the photos: He is 21-year-old Dmitry Danilov.
Two days later, the women and a neighbor managed to bury Ganiuk and Kibukevich in the yards of their homes. The men were exhumed and reburied only after the Russian troops left.
“They killed three people in half an hour that day,” says Vitali Cherkasov, a member of the local territorial defense.
The third, according to village head Anatoly Kibukevich, was 47-year-old Ruslan Yaremchuk. He lived on Sloboda Street, a few houses away from the other two murdered men.
The Yaremchuk family’s modest wooden house stood out on Sloboda Street among the larger brick buildings nearby. Ruslan and his wife Oksana had four children. Ruslan worked as a builder, and in recent years had become interested in photography and videography.
“He just filmed everything he saw,” says his daughter Yaroslava. “We assume that’s why they shot him: They thought he was filming and transmitting [information about] the movement of Russian troops.”
Yaremchuk’s neighbors recall that the Russians came to the family home on March 12, when he was home alone. His body was found by a neighbor nearby. Since the shelling was still going on, and it was impossible to move the body, he buried him right in the yard.
Over the next few days, several Russian soldiers bragged about killing three people on Sloboda Street, according to residents.
Tatiana Tkachenko recalls one soldier telling another: “They wiped out three on the next street.”
An elderly couple, Mikola and Tatiana, recalled similar boasts: “They came and started telling us how they killed three of our guys. Like, ‘They were f—–ts, they were waving dollars around, and we shot them.’”
The pensioners say the most boastful soldier was the very same “red-headed” Daniil Frolkin. They recognize him right away in the photos.
“I Thought No One Would Wash Them”
The torture and murder didn’t end there. A week later, on March 19, a shell landed near one of the places where the Russian soldiers were based.
“They started running around and looking for the guilty party,” recalls Nadezhda Savran.
One of the suspects was her 45-year-old son Igor, who had recently separated from his wife and had been living with her. In his youth, he served in the army, then in the national guard and in the state security service. More recently, he had become disillusioned with the life of a security officer and started repairing cars. Still, his military background may have been the reason he was mistaken for an artillery spotter.
The soldiers broke into the Savrans’ house at about 4 p.m. One of them took Igor away without explanation, in the very same gray Lada that had been stolen from the Udods.
Nobody knew what happened to him until March 31, when his dead body was found in a barn on the village outskirts. Next to him lay the body of his friend and neighbor, Vladimir Pozharnikov — the same “Vovka” whose saw the Russians had stolen.
The bodies of Igor Savran and Vladimir Pozharnikov were found in a barn.
After the Russians left, the Ukrainian army didn’t let Nadezhda near the bodies, saying that the corpses could be mined.
“I went there every day anyway,” she says. “I took water from the house and washed them. They were all gray. There are tanks driving past, equipment, the dust was getting on them. I thought no one would wash them.”
Graves of Vladimir Pozharnikov and Igor Savran.
Tracking Down “Sniper”
Reports found contact information for all four soldiers in the photos and decided to try and interview them. Two agreed to talk. The first interview was with Dmitry Danilov, also known as “Sniper.”
“Where did you get these photos?” he asks after seeing the images from the Udods’ phone. “I don’t even have them myself.”
Danilov does not recall the local pensioner Ivan, who recognized him as the soldier who took away his DVD player. He says he did no such thing. But he smiles as he confirms that he did ride through the village on a red moped — the same one remembered by Tatiana Tkachenko.
In January 2022, Danilov’s unit was sent to Belarus “for exercises.” Many already suspected that they might be sent to Ukraine, he said. Then the “special military operation” was officially announced in February.
“They said we would go in for three days of ‘intimidation,’” Danilov says. “A special operation had begun, Luhansk and Donetsk would now be recognized as people’s republics, they would be incorporated into the Russian Federation, and then you’ll leave.”
In keeping with the supposedly short duration of the mission, he and his unit were given provisions for just three days: “There was no opportunity to do laundry. Basically, we had to change clothes, look for something more or less in the right size.” In practice, that meant taking clothes from local residents.
Danilov says he and his fellow soldiers were told they were supposed to achieve “the liberation of Ukraine from the Nazis.”
“As we understood, the Nazis are those who wanted to make peace, so to speak, with the side that’s trying to threaten Russia all the time,” he says.
In Andriivka, however, he says he interacted with “quite normal locals.”
During the occupation of Andriivka, Danilov and his fellow servicemen were engaged in “a constant search for people who were giving out [Russian] coordinates [to the Ukrainian military].”
When asked what happened to those people next, he says, “As far as I know, they were taken prisoner, after which they were handed over to higher authorities — that’s all. They were interrogated in a routine way, and then they were returned through the exchange of prisoners of war.”
Danilov says he was not involved in any killings of civilians in Andriivka and does not know anything about those who were murdered there. But most of his fellow soldiers were unhappy with their mission, he says.
“There were just no specifics,” he says. “We were told the point after which we would leave [the Kyiv region]. We got to that point. And when it was time to leave, they told us another point, then another, and so on.”
Danilov says he quit the military as soon as he got home from Ukraine.
“On the one hand, it was right to get involved, on the other hand, it wasn’t,” Danilov says of the invasion. “I’m not thrilled, but I can’t say that I have a negative attitude. No one’s too thrilled about it. 99 percent of the news is lies: on TV, in the newspapers, everywhere. Few people tell the truth. Only those who got out of there know, but few can talk about it, because most signed [nondisclosure agreements]. And [the] majority wants to forget it all, like a nightmare.”
Still, before the interview ends, Danilov asks a reporter to send him the photos from the stolen phone — “for the memories.”
Some of the photos the Russian soldiers took on the stolen phone on March 14th and 15th.
Daniil Frolkin, whom reporters call next, says that he was sent to do “exercises” in Belarus as early as January 11. He says he received no special training, and learned he was heading to Ukraine on the evening before the invasion.
“First they wanted us to move out at 4 a.m., then they moved it to 3. They came to me at 1 and said, get your vehicle ready.”
After the invasion, Frolkin says, many of his fellow soldiers tried to quit, but no one was allowed.
“The guys went to brigade commander [Azatbek Omurbekov], but he started yelling at them, humiliating them: ‘I’ll have you shot for not wanting to go into battle.’ The special operation is supposed to be something voluntary. But we were forced into it, ‘voluntarily/forcibly,’” he says.
“They told me, like, you can’t refuse, like you’ll be charged, just get going.”
As of July 20, when this interview was recorded, Frolkin said his unit had been brought back to Russia — but not for long. “Tomorrow we’re going in for a third deployment,” he explained.
Frolkin says that, after leaving Andriivka, his fellow soldier Ruslan Glotov, who appeared in the photos with him, asked for permission to go home. But though he and two others were promised a ticket home, they were soon back in action in Ukraine. Glotov subsequently managed to quit, Danilov says, after injuring his arm in a mortar attack.
When asked about looting, Frolkin says that he and his comrades only took “a bunch of crap” from local houses: a bottle of wine or beer, a barbecue grill, and food. He says he didn’t take the World War II medals from Danilenko’s house. “We came, took a photo and put the medals back,” he says.
Still, he doesn’t deny that looting took place. He names a Colonel Vyacheslav Klobukov, a deputy commander in charge of logistics, as an especially enthusiastic thief: “He took refrigerators from stores. Then we found stores with sneakers, with all sorts of clothes — all this was also brought out. Entire trucks were brought out. I saw those two trucks when we got to Belarus.”
“I Confess to All The Crimes”
In June, the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine announced that it suspected Frolkin of violating the laws and customs of war. In particular, the agency said that the serviceman may be guilty of killing a civilian in Andriivka, stealing a car from another villager, and stealing Soviet and Ukrainian medals from a World War II veteran.
In July, Slidstvo.Info published an investigatio reporting that an Andriivka resident named Vasily had used the photographs on Udod’s phone to identify Frolkin as the killer of Igor Yermakov, whose body had been found by the transformer after the incident with the damaged Russian tank.
In his first interview with reporters, Frolkin denies any involvement in any murders in Andriivka.
But several hours later, he gets back in touch, this time asking to talk by video chat. Smoking a cigarette and looking directly into the camera, he makes a startling confession:
“I, soldier of military unit 51460, Guard Corporal Daniil Andreevich Frolkin, confess to all the crimes I committed in Andriivka, shooting civilians, stealing from civilians, confiscating their phones, and the fact that our command does not give a fuck about our fighters, all the infantry fighting on the front line.”
He went on to accuse a number of officers.
“And after this I would like to say: Take measures to punish the commanders: Guard Colonel Azatbek Omurbekov, Guard Lieutenant Colonel [Sergei] Dmitrenko, our brigade’s Deputy Commander for Logistics and Supplies, Colonel [Vyacheslav] Klobukov, and the head of intelligence Lieutenant Colonel [Denis] Romanenko. He was in charge of the reconnaissance unit, which did a piss-poor job conducting reconnaissance and led our men to their deaths. Also Deputy Brigade Commander Lieutenant Colonel [Andrei] Prokurat gave orders to shoot people.”
war.obozrevatel.com / nsktv.ru / social media
Officers of the 64th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade: Azatbek Omurbekov, Sergei Dmitrenko, Vyacheslav Klobukov, Denis Romanenko, Andrei Prokurat.
When asked what his unit’s commanders did, Frolkin says that “they don’t consider ordinary soldiers to be people.”
He says Omurbekov conveyed false information to higher command about the brigade’s non-existent successes. During the whole occupation of Andriivka, he says, Omurbekov “was sitting in the school basement,” where the headquarters was located.
“We tried to explain to this command that we won’t go on the offensive anymore,” Frolkin recalls. “[After that] Omurbekov started beating the guys, like they were weak, he just poured foul language on them. He hit one of them in the face with the stock of a gun, put a gun to the forehead of another, and said: ‘I’m going to shoot you and nothing will happen to me.’”
Asked what he meant by “shooting civilians,” Frolkin explains that on one day in March, the commanders asked him and several other soldiers to accompany them to search the homes of three local residents.
“They had a wad of money on them: hryvnias, bucks, all kinds of shit. The lieutenant colonel who was with us, [Andrei] Prokurat, took the money and gave us the rest of the things — documents, phones — and said: ‘Take them out.’ That’s it, I went and took one of them out.”
Andriivka’s cemetery, where the victims of the Russian soldiers were buried.
Judging by the circumstances Frolkin recalls, the man he killed that day was almost certainly Yaremchuk, the father of four who loved photography. Frolkin doesn’t recognize Yaremchuk from a photo shown by a reporter, but admits there’s much he might have forgotten out of shock.
Later, when he shows the photo to a fellow soldier who also participated in the search, the soldier identifies Yaremchuk as the man Frolkin shot.
Frolkin insists that he did it only because his victim was giving up the coordinates of Russian army columns.
“I understand that revenge is a fucked-up thing, but I was taking revenge and I knew what I was doing,” he says.
“He told us, ‘I’m a civilian, I live here.’ Then a dog came running up, and you could see that the dog was from this yard, and it started barking at him, though it wasn’t barking at us. We tell him: ‘Tell the truth, bitch, we’ll shoot you now.’
“He says: ‘I came from Kyiv the day before yesterday, they asked me to send column coordinates.’ I just took him out of the house. We found shell casings on him. … I tell him to walk forward. He walks forward. I tell him, ‘on your knees.’ And I just shoot him in the head. Then I was shaking for a long time. I killed one, but I wanted to save as many people as I could.”
Left – Yaremchuks’ house, where Ruslan was shot. Right – Ruslan with his wife Oksana.
Frolov says he decided to make his confession for the sake of his “lads,” who are about to be sent back to the frontline — this time to the southern Kherson region, which Ukraine is reportedly about to launch an offensive to retake.
“Our guys will be spared, they’ll be brought out because of me,” Frolkin hopes.
“Better to destroy one life than to lose the lives of 200-300 people. I know all those boys. … Now they’re going to be sent to Kherson. They have no right to do that, because they physically can’t stand it anymore. I see that our brigade is being destroyed.”
He confesses that he never understood who he was fighting and why.
“They tell us about our unit, that we are rescuing people and that we’re so great, but it’s unclear who we’re fighting. But they don’t tell us anything about other units, they don’t tell us anything about the losses of civilians either. ‘The artillery is good, they’re killing [Ukrainian soldiers].’ And how many civilians are killed? They [the commanders] probably don’t even know themselves.”
At the end of July, Frolkin applied for discharge from the military.
“I understand that I can be put in jail for all this information,” he says. “Not even for the fact that I did all this shit in Ukraine. But for the information [about the commanders]. I just want to confess everything and explain what’s going on in our country. I think it would be better if this war hadn’t happened at all.”
This investigation was originally published in Russian by IStories. It was translated and adapted for OCCRP by Ilya Lozovsky. Below, you can view IStories’ video version of the story. English subtitles will be added soon.
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