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The Russians were already gone: the mysterious disappearance of Irpin resident Oleksandr Synhaievskyi

According to the National Police, as of July 2023, 317 people were reported missing in action during hostilities in the Kyiv region. Among them, some people are held captive in Russia, but this has not been confirmed. Some were probably killed, but their bodies have not been identified or found at all. Relatives of the missing want to know if the person is alive and, if not, under what circumstances they died.

For over a year and nine months, Olha Rubanka, the wife of Oleksandr Synhaievskyi, a missing resident of Irpin, has been searching for him. The main difference between this case and the others is that her husband disappeared not during the occupation of the Kyiv region but after its liberation from the Russians – on the afternoon of 4 April 2022.

25-year-old Oleksandr Synhaievskyi is a car repairman. On 24 February 2022, he was in Irpin, living with his wife Olha, stepson Maksym, and a young son. On the morning of 25 February, the family decided to escape from the town and go to the small village of Novi Makalevychi, where Olha and Oleksandr’s parents live.

Oleksandr Synhaievskyi went missing on 5 April 2022. Photo: Viktor Kovalchuk

“When the Russian columns arrived on the 24th, Valentyna (Olha’s mother), Olia, and all the grandchildren were in Irpin. Sashko was at work,” Petro Kashpirko, Olha Rubanka’s father, recalls. “I was in Novi Makalevychi looking after my mother-in-law. On 25 February, they packed and came to us.”

However, the Russians captured this region on the first day of the full-scale war. As Petro Kashpirko recollects, the occupiers did not have their base in Novi Makalevychi; they only occasionally stopped by when they did not know the way, and the battles took place away from the village.

The family lived there all the time while the battles for the Kyiv region were going on, sometimes hiding in the house basement. Petro Kashpirko says that on 31 March and 1 April 2022, Russian troops were actively leaving the occupied region under the pressure of the Ukrainian Armed Forces:

“On 1 April, the remnants of the occupiers were already running away. And the trucks were leaving with looted property. By then, we had run out of food, so we decided to go to Malyn to buy some. It was impossible to go to Kyiv because the bridges were blown up. So on 5 April, we packed and set off.”

Petro Kashpirko, Oleksandr Synhaievskyi’s father-in-law. Photo: Viktor Kovalchuk

How Oleksandr Synhaievskyi disappeared

The four of them traveled to Malyn together: Oleksandr, who was driving a Volkswagen Polo; his father-in-law Petro; his stepson Maksym; and Nadiia Rudenko, Oleksandr’s aunt from the village of Makarivka.

“It was morning, around 8 or 9 o’clock. There are two roads to Malyn: through Ivankiv and through Termakhivka. We went through Termakhivka. We got on the Malyn road and approached the village of Sydorovychi, but the bridge there was blown up. We started to drive around it, passed Sydorovychi, and Sasha said, “Let’s go straight through the forest, and we’ll get on this road.” He turned onto a track in the woods,” Petro Kashpirko tells MIHR.

A track in the forest, where Oleksandr Synhaievskyi turned to. Photo: Viktor Kovalchuk

On the road, Petro and Oleksandr saw a blown-up military pickup truck – the car of Ukrainian defenders and their bodies. “Sashko and I decided to go over to see what was there while the kid and his aunt stayed in the car. We approached and saw full combat arms, a machine gun, magazines, a Mukha RPG, and a lot of bullets. Sashko and I explored the place and, on the road, found entrails and torn-off legs in boots… I suggested Sashko to go back, but he disagreed, saying it was only 50 meters to the road,” Kashpirko recounts. After that, Oleksandr Synhaievskyi got behind the wheel but drove no more than five meters when the car hit an anti-personnel mine.

“I was standing in the woods when I saw the front wheel go through, and the right rear wheel suddenly explode on a mine. The wheel was damaged, of course, and there was no spare one in the car. Oleksandr got out, started to run and look; he got confused and nervous,” Kashpirko recalls. The passengers survived. Meanwhile, cars began to drive from the village of Olizarivka, near where Oleksandr’s car exploded. People asked how to help, but no one had the proper wheel. So Oleksandr went to the village of Termakhivka for help, while Petro stayed by the car.

Petro Kashpirko shows a photo of a blown-up Armed Forces pickup truck he took on 5 April 2022. Photo: Viktor Kovalchuk

“Suddenly, a car pulled up with some women familiar to Sashko and Nadia, and we decided to send her and Maksym to Termakhivka with them to find some transportation and return home,” Kashpirko explains.

Soon, Oleksandr returned without a spare wheel. Then Petro decides to catch a ride home, get his own car, and go to Ivankiv to look for a spare wheel.

Oleksandr Synhaievskyi stayed near the car on the road in the forest near the blown-up military pickup truck. Nowadays, Oleksandr’s relatives do not remember why he decided to stay – either he was afraid that the car would be stolen, or he wanted to go to his friends in the nearby village and ask for a spare wheel. However, Petro Kashpirko saw his daughter’s husband for the last time. On the same day, around 3 p.m., he returned to where he had left his son-in-law, but Oleksandr Synhaievskyi was not there.

The remains of a Ukrainian Armed Forces vehicle in the forest near Olizarivka. Photo: Viktor Kovalchuk

One more anti-personnel mine

The MIHR team visited the village of Olizarivka, near which Oleksandr’s car exploded and where he disappeared. Locals say that on 1 April, there were no representatives of the Russian Armed Forces in the village. On the contrary, special units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine entered to clear the territory. Law enforcement officers and the SSU also visited the settlement the following days. None of the residents interviewed told MIHR that they had seen at least one Russian soldier around Olizarivka after 1 April 2022.

Russian equipment near Termakhivka Photo: Viktor Kovalchuk

Petro Kashpirko returned to the car in the woods at 3 p.m. on the same day, 5 April. He was accompanied by Serhii Rudenko, Nadiia’s husband. However, Oleksandr Synhaievskyi was not there. They saw traces near the car as if someone had dragged a rake across the sandy ground. The men tried to replace the torn wheel, but the spare tire they had brought did not fit. It was getting dark, and there was no mobile connection.

“I wrote a message to Sashko and put it on the windscreen; then, Serhii and I went back,” Kashpirko recollects. “In the evening, I went to that place again, this time with our military. It was dark. We arrived there, but Sashko wasn’t there. We searched everything. On 6 April, I went there again but didn’t find him again.”

The search for Synhaievskyi lasted several days. On 7 April, his wife Olha filed a report of her husband’s disappearance to the Ivankiv police department. On the ninth, she and her father Petro went around the villages closest to Oleksandr’s disappearance and interviewed people. The same day, they went to the forest to check whether all Synhaievskii’s possessions were in place. His mobile phone and wallet with documents remained in the car.

Synhaievskii’s wife, Olha, has been looking for him for almost two years. Photo: Viktor Kovalchuk

“His phone was in the front near the gearbox, but I couldn’t see his wallet, so I went to the left side and saw that it was still there. As soon as I turned around to go to Olia, I stepped on an anti-personnel mine. It exploded,” Petro Kashpirko recalls, adding that at least seven people, including Ukrainian soldiers, got blown up in the area. As a result of his severe wound, Petro lost his leg and became disabled.

The investigation has reached a dead end

In May 2022, Olha Rubanka submitted her son’s DNA samples to be included in the case of her husband’s disappearance. The extract from the Unified Register of Pre-trial Investigations refers to proceedings under Article 438, part 1, i.e., violation of the laws and customs of war.

The case is being investigated by the SSU Office in Kyiv and the Kyiv region. The extract from the URPTI states that between 24.02.2022 and 04.04.2022, representatives of the armed forces and other formations of the Russian Federation carried out an armed attack on civilians and civilian buildings in the village of Ivankiv, resulting in the disappearance of Oleksandr Synhaievskyi. However, the man disappeared on 5 April 2022, the day when the area of the Kyiv region was officially considered de-occupied.

Olha shows a pre-war photo with her husband. Photo: Viktor Kovalchuk

The law enforcers added the case of another missing person, who, as investigators state, was later found killed, to Sinhaiyevskyi’s. In a comment to Andrii Yakovliev, Olga Rubanka’s lawyer, the investigator explained that that person accidentally appeared in Sinhaiyevskyi’s case and had nothing to do with Oleksandr’s disappearance.

The investigators couldn’t also track Synhaievskii’s movements on the day of his disappearance using his mobile phone signal, as mobile phone towers were not working at that time and in that area. It is also unknown whether law enforcement officers compared the DNA of the bodies found in the Vyshhorod district with the DNA of Sinhaievskyi’s child. That is why, in August 2023, the lawyer Andrii Yakovliev filed a request to the Main Department of SSU in Kyiv and the Kyiv Region.

It states, in particular, that law enforcement officers failed to timely inspect Oleksandr Synhaievskyi’s car and did not ensure its safety and the inviolability of his possessions in the vehicle. “As a result, according to the victim’s testimony, on or about 24 April 2022, Sinhaievskyi’s smartphone (without a SIM card), battery, and money were stolen from the car. The phone (as well as the phone number) of O. O. Synhaievskyi is among the important evidence that can or could help clarify the circumstances of his disappearance. In addition, due to the untimely inspection of the car, the opportunity to collect proper evidence from the scene was lost,” the request states. It also mentions a resident of Olizarivka who may be involved in the disappearance of possessions from Sinhaievskyi’s car and whom SSU investigators must interview.

The SSU does not provide any explanations about the progress of the case. Now and then, Olha tries to contact them and ask about the investigation, but they have nothing to say.

The SSU investigators did not provide Oleksandr Sinhaievskyi’s wife with any information on his case. Photo: Viktor Kovalchuk

MIHR contacted a specialist in the criminal investigation. He said on condition of anonymity that in April 2022, many unidentified bodies were found in the Kyiv region after the de-occupation. However, due to the excessive number of cases, the low resources of the National Police, and sometimes the negligence of officials, DNA samples were often lost or damaged. At the same time, unidentified bodies could not be kept in morgues for long. Therefore, they were buried in cemeteries in the Kyiv region within a month, three at most, without identification, with the body number only.

In July 2022, the National Police reported more than 200 bodies found in the Kyiv region. Oleksandr Synhaievskyi’s body may be among them, but a thorough investigation is needed to determine this. It should also provide answers to critical questions: whether the man died on 5 April 2022 or not; if so, who killed him because the area had already been de-occupied at the time; and whether Synhaievskyi was abducted by the Russian military.


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