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A Ukrainian man has shared a truly remarkable survival story after he says he was shot and buried alive by Russian soldiers.
Mykola Kulichenko claims he was brutally beaten, while blindfolded, by a metal rod, before troops put a gun in his mouth and shot him.
The 33-year-old said his two brothers, Yevhen and Dmytro, were next to him in the unmarked woodland grave, near the Belarus border in the northern Chernihiv region of Ukraine, and claims their arms and legs were tied and their bodies were bruised.
Mykola says he brothers sadly died, but that he somehow managed to survive to tell the story.
Prior to the shooting, he says the three siblings were driven to an eerie basement where they were interrogated for three days. Mykola told said he was hoping they would be released on the fourth day, but that was not the case.
After being taken to a makeshift grave, he says that the eldest of the three brothers, Dmytro, tragically fell to the ground after he heard a shot from behind him.
Then Yevhen, the youngest brother, fell next to him.
"They beat my whole body with a metal rod, and they put the barrel of a gun inside my mouth," Mykola told CNN.
"I was thinking that I was next," he said.
However, Mykola says the bullet that went through he cheek proved not to be fatal. The Ukrainian knew his only hope of survival was to play dead.
He added: "It was hard for me to breathe, since Dima (Dmytro) was lying on top of me, but using my arms and knees, I was able to push my older brother off to the side of the pit, and then I climbed out."
At night, he says he dragged his feet through random fields to the closest house nearby, where a woman took him in and cared for him overnight.
He says he was then able to get back to his sister, Iryna, who'd been anxiously waiting for days at their father's home.
"I came home and there was Mykola. I looked at his eyes and asked where are the others? He said there are no others," Iryna recalls, sobbing.
Mykola says it's a miracle he survived. Scars on his cheek and behind his ear are still visible today.
"I was lucky... and now I have to just go on living," he said. "This story needs to be heard by everyone, not just in Ukraine, but around the world because these kind of things are happening and this is just one in a billion."
After going back to the pit he was almost buried alive in, Mykola moved his brothers' bodies beneath elaborate tombstones in a well-tended grave.
If you would like to donate to the Red Cross Emergency Appeal, which will help provide food, medicines and basic medical supplies, shelter and water to those in Ukraine, click here for more information
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