In June 2022, a Moscow resident, Klim Kirzhaev, hit a civilian car with a machine gun. The passengers were a civilian couple. The man was injured, and the woman was rescued with the help of a Ukrainian drone. The documentary “Follow me” was filmed based on this story.

The head of the Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office, Oleksandr Filchakov, and the head of the investigative department of the National Police in Kharkiv Oblast, Serhii Bolvinov, talked about the investigation and identifying the suspect during a briefing in Kharkiv MediaHub.

What is the documentary about?

The Follow me documentary film tells the story of a couple from Donetsk Oblast who tried to escape the war last summer. They were going to Bakhmut by car to evacuate their elderly parents. Civilians came under Russian shelling near the village of Velyka Komyshuvakha in the Izium district in Kharkiv Oblast.

Footage from a Ukrainian drone / National Police

The man was wounded in the head, back, and leg. The woman tried to save him, but the occupiers continued to fire. The Ukrainian military watched them from a drone. Eventually, they attached a “Follow me” note to the drone. The woman followed the quadcopter and saved her life.

Footage from a Ukrainian drone / National Police

The Russians, who soon approached the civilian car, threw the wounded man’s body into a trench on the side of the road. He remained there for about 30 hours. On the third day, it started to rain. The rain and the cold weather brought the civilian to consciousness. The man got to the car, took a blanket, and reached the positions of the Ukrainian defenders. He was provided medical assistance there. He and his wife survived.

The real recording from a drone camera was used in the film.

How did the investigation begin?

The car was shot on June 23, 2022. The next day, the investigator of the district department registered criminal proceedings under the article on violation of the laws and customs of war. Law enforcement officers received many intercepts of conversations of Russian soldiers in the occupied territory then.

“We saw a conversation where a man bragged to his wife that he shot a civilian car: the man died, and the woman ran away. The wife asks: “Have you killed hohol?” [hohol, khokhol – an ethnic slur for Ukrainians popular in Russia]. It provoked us. Each case is a priority for us, but we began to compare where and when these events took place. The events voiced during radio interceptions and June 23 last year coincided. After that, I personally called the serviceman who reported this crime,” Serhii Bolvinov said.

Head of the Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office Oleksandr Filchakov and Serhii Bolvinov, Chief of the Investigative Department of the National Police in Kharkiv Oblast / Polina Kulish, Gwara Media

The defender provided the National Police investigators with a drone video. It shocked them because they had not had access to such evidence before.

After that, the law enforcement officers began to analyze social networks to establish the unit, which was located near the village of Velyka Komyshuvakha. With the help of the cyber police, they managed to identify the war criminal. He was a 26-year-old Russian citizen, senior lieutenant, and commander of the first motorized rifle squadron of the 15th motorized rifle regiment of the 22nd motorized rifle division of the 1st tank army of the Western Military District of the Russian Federation Kirzhaev Klim.

The found photos of the Russian military / Polina Kulish, Gwara Media

Moreover, numerous forensic examinations were conducted to determine the car’s location and understand from where and with what it was fired. Investigators found 10 shell casings of 30-millimeter caliber and mechanized infantry combat vehicles at the scene. Bolvinov notes that it was then that the picture of the crime began to emerge. They gathered enough evidence for future justice.

Shell remnants found at the crime scene / Polina Kulish, Gwara Media

It remained to make sure that Klim Kirzhaev was the person who shot the civilian car. For this, the law enforcement officers found a Russian prisoner of war who was in the same position in the summer of 2022. He recognized the senior lieutenant of the squadron commander by the photo and voice, emphasized Bolvinov. With the help of a phonoscopic examination, the investigators made sure that it was Klim Kirzhaev.

Suspect Klim Kirzhaev / National Police

Investigators gathered all the evidence and prepared a report of suspicion.

“Russian soldiers kill Ukrainian civilians for money. He flaunts that he has money for it. And this is the price of Ukrainian life; this is what they do on our land. They made fun of it, there is a car dealership on this road, and they shot the cars that passed them like at a shooting range. These were civilian cars with our citizens. We have identified this scoundrel,” Serhii Bolvinov recounts the interception of the suspect’s conversation with his friend.

In the personal photos of the Russian military, there were shells with the inscription “Bucha.” Allegedly, some units were transferred to Kharkiv Oblast after evacuation from Kyiv Oblast.

What happens next?

Investigators will apply to the court to conduct a special pre-trial investigation. This will make it possible to prosecute the Russian in absentia. He faces up to 15 years in prison for the crimes committed, Oleksandr Filchakov notes.

If the suspect flees abroad, foreign law enforcement officers are obliged to arrest him and hand him over to Ukraine.

Text by Polina Kulish

Read our identification of Russian servicemen in Izium, Borova, and other Kharkiv Oblast settlements.

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