The two Ukrainian soldiers lived on Myru Street in the village of Zdvyzhivka in Kyiv Oblast. Pavlo Kholodenko and Viktor Balay had known each other since early childhood. They grew up together, played together, and went to kindergarten and primary school together. When war broke out in eastern Ukraine in 2014, they enlisted together and fought in the Donbas as part of the Kyivshchyna Police Battalion.
When Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, 2022, Pavlo and Viktor dropped their daily duties and rushed over to the local recruitment office. Then, in early March, they suddenly stopped communicating with their families.
“There was no news, but we knew they were probably together. They were best friends, very close, always together. They were inseparable,” says Tetiana Kholodenko, Pavlo’s mother.
During the first week of April, Russian troops began retreating from Kyiv Oblast, but it is only recently that the bodies of both ATO veterans were found buried in a trench near their village. The two men had been tortured, mutilated and shot point blank in the head.