PALO ALTO, Calif. (KRON) — A photojournalist witnessed Tetiana Perebyinis and her two children in a civilian convoy attempting to flee from war-torn Ukraine when they were killed by Russian mortars.
Perebyinis worked for a Palo Alto-based tech company, SE Ranking, which has many employees based in Ukraine.
Perebyinis and her children, 9-year-old Alise and 18-year-old Nikita, were killed Sunday by Russian mortar artillery as they attempted to flee from their small town of Irpin.
New York Times photographer Lynsey Addario said she could not believe her eyes when Russian soldiers began firing at the civilian convoy in Irpin.
Addario shot a disturbing and gut-wrenching photograph of Perebyinis and her children’s bodies lying lifeless on a street. A church volunteer who was helping the family was also killed by the blast.
In an interview with MSNBC, Addario said witnessing the deaths of Perebyinis and her children was “heartbreaking.”
“When the mortars started coming in, I thought, ‘It is not possible. They are not going to target that path.’ They did. To see that family, the mother and her two children lying there on the ground lifeless with their little suitcases is the most heartbreaking thing that I have seen,” Addario told MSNBC.
Addario said she went to Irpin on Sunday expecting to photograph civilians evacuating along a safe path.
“We went to a place that I thought was going to be safe because it was a civilian evacuation route. It was a known path where civilians were going. Very soon after I arrived there, mortars started being lobbed. They started 200 meters from our position and then literally (landing) onto the path where civilians were walking. I watched it in real-time,” Addario said.
“That mortar hit between (photojournalists) and the family. It very well could have been us,” Addario said.
“We survived and were able to witness what happened, and the New York Times was able to publish that image. To me, that speaks to the importance of journalism. All of us journalists on the ground are trying to show the civilian (death) toll, show that civilians are being targeted. Each side will tell you what they want journalists to report. We have to see it with our own eyes. Because you can’t take things at face value,” Addario said.
“We are seeing repeatedly that schools are being targeted, residential buildings are being targeted, basically nothing is off-limits. We are seeing people flee for their lives in droves. And while they are fleeing, not being able to make it,” Addario told MSNBC.
“As mortars were coming in, I’m watching these little children and little girl in a pink puffy coat through my lens, and mortars are going past her. I’m thinking, ‘How can you target children?’ There is no way President Putin can say only military targets are being targeted because that is just not the reality,” Addario said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy strongly condemned the Russian military for targeting the civilians.
U.N. officials said 2 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s attack began.
Authorities announced new cease-fires Wednesday to allow thousands of civilians to escape bombarded towns around Kyiv as well as the cities of Mariupol, Enerhodar and Volnovakha in the south, Izyum in the east and Sumy in the northeast.
People streamed out of Kyiv’s suburbs as explosions were heard in the capital.
“We have a short window of time at the moment,” said Yevhen Nyshchuk, a member of Ukraine’s territorial defense forces. “Even if there is a cease-fire right now, there is a high risk of shells falling at any moment.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report