Russia’s civilian attacks

The photograph has become a worldwide symbol of Russia’s brutality toward Ukrainian civilians.

Four people lay near an intersection in Irpin, a Kyiv suburb, on Sunday. All were dead or soon would be, from the force of Russian mortars. There had been no Ukrainian forces where the mortars landed, suggesting Russia might have been targeting a civilian escape route near Kyiv.

If so, it was part of Russia’s larger campaign to demoralize Ukraine by killing and wounding ordinary people, a strategy the Russian military has also used in Syria and Chechnya. Ukraine is now enduring these attacks every day, many of them undocumented.

In Irpin, however, a team of Times journalists happened to be nearby when the mortar shells landed, and one of them, Lynsey Addario, took the photograph of the family. “I thought, you know, it’s disrespectful to take a photo, but I have to take a photo — this is a war crime,” Lynsey told CBS Evening News. “I think it’s really important that people around the world see these images.”

In the days since the attack, my colleagues have reconstructed the lives of the four victims: Tetiana Perebyinis and her two children, 18-year-old Mykyta and 9-year-old Alisa, along with Anatoly Berezhnyi, a 26-year-old church volunteer trying to help them to safety.

Tetiana Perebyinis, who was an accountant, and her husband, Serhiy, a computer programmer, had already escaped war in Ukraine once. Until 2014, they lived in eastern Ukraine, and they fled to Kyiv after Russia fomented a separatist uprising in the east.

“They met in high school but became a couple years later, after meeting again on a dance floor at a Ukrainian nightclub,” my colleague Andrew Kramer reports from Kyiv, after speaking with Serhiy this week. “They owned a Chevrolet minivan and shared a country home with friends, and Ms. Perebyinis was a dedicated gardener and an avid skier.”

A few weeks ago, before the situation in Kyiv deteriorated, Tetiana’s company rented rooms in Poland and encouraged its employees to use them. But Tetiana did not want to leave until she had a plan to evacuate her mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease. Finally, around 7 a.m. on Sunday, Tetiana and her children began their journey, while Serhiy was trapped in eastern Ukraine, tending to his ailing mother.

By mid-morning on Sunday, Tetiana, Mykyta and Alisa had all been killed, alongside Berezhnyi, the church volunteer. Berezhnyi had moved his wife to western Ukraine but returned himself to Irpin to help others evacuate.

The civilian death toll continued to rise yesterday.

  • A Russian strike hit a hospital in Mariupol, a southern Ukrainian city near the Russian border. The complex included a children’s clinic and a maternity ward. Video showed blown-out windows in the hospital and a crater, more than 10 feet deep, in a courtyard.

  • It was another apparent instance of Russia’s efforts to destroy civilian infrastructure in Mariupol. Residents there have been without power, water and heat, cutting down trees to burn for warmth and cooking. “There are just bodies lying in the streets,” one resident said.

  • Russia and Ukraine announced a tentative agreement yesterday to open humanitarian corridors in six cities, supposedly allowing Ukrainians to leave safely. But the only corridor that seemed to be functioning was in Sumy, east of Kyiv.

  • The United Nations reported that at least 516 civilians had been killed and that it believed the true number was “considerably higher.” The Associated Press has documented the civilian toll in these photos, and you can see more Times photos.

Russia “is resorting to tactics reminiscent of medieval siege warfare, encircling cities, cutting off escape routes and pounding the civilian population with heavy ordnance,” Jonathan Gimblett, a London-based lawyer who represents the Ukrainian government, said.

  • The House passed a spending bill that includes billions in aid for Ukraine, but no funding for the U.S. pandemic response.

This week, the soundtrack to the Disney film “Encanto,” featuring “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” and other songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda, spent its eighth week at No. 1 on Billboard’s album chart. But the soundtrack wasn’t always a smash, as Ben Sisario writes, and its newfound success highlights how fans drive hits through social media.

The TikTok-to-streaming pipeline. After the film came to Disney+ in December, fans on TikTok started recreating scenes, performing dances and singing along. Soon after, “Bruno” and other songs from the soundtrack climbed in popularity on streaming platforms.

Radio is often behind the curve. “Bruno” was almost entirely absent from the radio for most of that ascent. Disney did not begin promoting it to stations until late January, and it still gets a fraction of the radio plays of songs by stars like Adele.

Videos enhance the experience. If you get bored of the original songs, YouTube offers variations, including versions of “Bruno” translated into 21 languages or mashed up with other pop songs. Clips on social media help contextualize the songs in a way that radio play never could, Ben writes, and let fans relive the film.