CNN has obtained surveillance video of what is now being investigated by Ukrainian prosecutors as war crimes.
His daughter Yulia can’t bear to watch the video of her father’s death anniversary, but she saves it to show her children one day so they don’t forget how cruel the intruders were.
“They are executioners,” she told CNN. “It’s terrible because my father was a civilian, he was 68, a peaceful, unarmed man.”
Kill caught from multiple angles
Surveillance camera images show the first Russian attempt to take Kyiv in March. Heavy fighting broke out on the main road to the capital as Ukrainian forces battled Russian troops and tankers to halt the advance.
But what happened in front of the dealership on March 16 was not a battle between soldiers, or even soldiers and armed civilians.
The video was verified by CNN. It’s composed of a number of cameras located around the property, and while there’s no sound, its images are clear. It was a cowardly, cold-blooded murder by two unarmed men.
Five Russian soldiers arrive and try to break into the shops, shooting locks and smashing glass.
When the owner approaches with their hands up, they stop him and appear to search him for weapons. Plyats then arrives and is also felted. There appears to be some conversation before the soldiers turn away and the two civilians head back to their sentry post.
Then at least two of the soldiers come up behind the men and open fire. Both civilians fall to the ground.
CNN has reached out to the Russian Defense Ministry for comment but has received no response.
In addition to the killing, the video shows much more unprofessional behavior by the group of five soldiers, identified by their uniforms as members of the invasion force, analysis of who was controlling which area at the time, and eyewitness accounts.
The men can be seen inside the dealership removing their body armor and searching through drawers and desks. A man grabs a bobble hat from a shelf and puts it on. Two men get drinks and apparently bump into each other.
Grandfather tried to save himself
While the soldiers searched the shops, Plyats was still alive. The video shows him struggling to his feet, tying some sort of tourniquet around his thigh and limping back to his post.
There he gets a phone to call for help.
This appeal went to his compatriots, other Ukrainian citizens who stayed to defend their neighborhoods.
The ragtag squad of volunteers attempted to rescue Plyats and exchanged fire with Russian forces as they struggled to reach him, said the group’s commander, who asked not to be identified to protect his safety.
Surveillance footage shows Plyats slumped in the guard hut as the Ukrainians make it to him. They pull him out, leaving a wide trail of blood. He died there outside the guard hut. The commander said he bled to death when the civilian fighters were initially forced to retreat, they just didn’t have the firepower to take on the tanks and guns the Russians had in the area.
The civilian commander said Plyats and the dealer’s owner had been warned that the Russians were approaching but chose to stay. Plyats’ daughter said he believed in doing his duty, so he went to work. None of the men seemed to have any idea how they would be treated if they approached the soldiers.
The volunteer fighter said what happened created hatred against the Russian troops, who killed for no reason, and others like them.
“It’s definitely a war crime,” he said. “If there is a way to reach and catch them, I think they deserve the death penalty.”
Plyats’ daughter asked for his remains to be cremated as a proper burial was impossible amid the fighting. His ashes are still waiting for her in the morgue and she hopes to one day bury them in her mother’s grave. All she can do now is remember her “very happy” father and hope for some measure of justice.
“They need to be judged,” she said of his killers. “I hope for an international court. I hope that not only Ukraine, but the whole world will find out about their crimes.”