Inside devastated Mykolaiv after worst attack of war kills one of Ukraine’s richest men

A house, hotel, sports complex, dentist and medical facility, as well as two schools were destroyed in the blast

Suspicions that deadly missile strike was called in by Russian spies as it targets the country’s biggest grain trader at his house

Danielle DEFENCE EDITOR, IN MYKOLAIV 31 July 2022 • 8:35pm

Witnesses saw torches lighting up the home of Ukraine’s biggest grain trader hours before he was killed by a Russian missile, in what may have been a targeted strike called in by Russian spies.

Oleksiy Vadatursky, 74, the founder and owner of the agriculture company Nibulon, and his wife Raisa were killed when a missile hit their house in the southern city of Mykolaiv in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Mr Vadatursky, one of the largest farmers in the country, was killed as Ukraine prepared to resume grain exports following a UN and Turkish-brokered deal to ease a Russian maritime blockade, prompting allegations the Kremlin was deliberately trying to sabotage the agreement.

“Vadatursky was one of the largest farmers in the country, a key person in the region and a large employer,” Myhailo Podolyak said. “The accurate missile didn’t just hit the house, but a specific wing – the bedroom – which leaves no doubts about the guidance of the strike.”

The claim gained backing from a group of foreign volunteers based in a neighbouring compound who also came under attack.

Daniel Burke, a former British paratrooper who leads the Dark Angels, told The Telegraph the group noticed torches being flashed at both compounds before the missiles hit.

Asked if he was sure the torches were shone by Russian spies he said: “One hundred per cent. Drones see an aerial view. Boots on the ground work for the Russians. [They] Go to POI’s – a ‘point of interest’. When they see activity from a certain POI they light the place up. The Russian UAV sees and relays to the strike unit. They designate the shot. Last night was our turn.”

A building is destroyed by the missiles
A building is destroyed by the missiles CREDIT: Paul Grover for the Telegraph

Fears about Russian saboteurs have surged in recent weeks. Mr Zelensky last month fired the head of the SBU, Ukraine’s security service, over allegations it had been infiltrated.

Vitaly Kim, the governor of the Mykolaiv region, said in a recent interview with The Telegraph that he was intending to shut down the city to flush out Russian spies and traitors providing targeting information.

He said: “I suspect everybody. But we have only a few of them in our city. Even one of them can give many points to the Russians so we are searching for the bad ones.”

Ukraine is one of the world’s leading grain producers. It has accused Russia of blockading its exports in a bid to throttle its economy and pile pressure on the West by creating a global food crisis.

Turkey and the UN brokered a deal that was signed separately by Ukraine and Russia to allow the safe passage of grain last month. Russia struck the port of Odesa shortly after the deal was reached.

A spokesman for Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey, has said on Sunday that the first grain-exporting ship could leave Ukrainian ports on Monday.

Mr Zelensky said the country’s harvest could be half its usual amount this year due to the Russian invasion.

Oleksandr Sienkevych, the mayor of Mykolaiv, described attacks that took place on Saturday night and in the early hours of Sunday as “probably the most powerful” that the city had endured in the entire five months since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began.

Hanna Zamazieieva, the head of the Mykolaiv regional council, said: “My city, the Hero City of Mykolaiv, is becoming a second Mariupol. […] About 40 rockets were fired at Mykolaiv tonight. This is one of the largest attacks against the city since the beginning of the all-out invasion.”

Besides the Vadatursky’s obliterated house, a hotel, a sports complex, a dentist and medical facility, as well as two schools were also destroyed.

Multiple residential buildings that were not directly hit were damaged by the shock wave and debris of the strikes.

Mr Burke told The Telegraph they had been sleeping when the shelling began to rain down.

Residents are busy cleaning up the debris
Residents are busy cleaning up the debris CREDIT: Paul Grover for the Telegraph

He explained how the first hit blew the house up behind them, which belonged to Mr Vadatursky. Along with his team, they managed to get down to the bottom floor before the second missile struck.

He suffered a severe laceration to his foot and will not be able to fight for weeks. Other members of his team were also injured, however “everyone survived”.

When The Telegraph visited the site of the attacks on Sunday morning, local residents were busy cleaning up the debris.

The roads were covered in shattered glass while inside the building where the Dark Angels had been staying, the floors of hallways were covered in bloody footprints.

Oleg, 48, who worked at the complex in security, was helping to sweep up the shards of glass.

Every single window in the building had been blown through, carpeting the ground outside. Observing the 8ft-deep crater outside the building that had swallowed up what had once been a garden, he shrugged his shoulders in despair.

Every single window in the building has been blown through and an 8ft-deep crater lies next to it
Every single window in the building has been blown through and an 8ft-deep crater lies next to it CREDIT: Paul Grover for the Telegraph

At a Sunday service in the nearby St Nicholas Cathedral Church locals attended, appearing to be praying with determination.

Throughout the service they sang in unison, bowed their heads in prayer and only paused momentarily when an explosion was heard.

The citizens of Mykolaiv, a strategic city that guards the Russians’ potential route to Odesa, have suffered constant bombardment since the war began.

Russia initially tried and failed to seize the city and its bridges over the Southern Bug river in February. They were defeated and pushed back.

Military officials say Russians have stepped up its bombardment over the past few weeks, apparently in response to a Ukrainian counter offensive to retake Kherson, 35 miles to the south east.

Up to 50 Grad rockets also hit residential areas in another southern city, Nikopol, wounding one person, on Sunday.

People bow their heads in prayer at a Sunday service in the nearby St Nicholas Cathedral Church
People bow their heads in prayer at a Sunday service in the nearby St Nicholas Cathedral Church CREDIT: Paul Grover for the Telegraph

Kyiv officials on Sunday ordered a mandatory evacuation of civilians from the Ukrainian-held part of the Donetsk region in the east of the country, saying there would be no heating or energy supplies to support the population during the winter months.

About 200,000 people will have to be moved, officials said. Russia is attempting to advance in Donetsk, which it claims as part of a puppet “people’s republic” it wants to “liberate”.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it had still not been granted access to a prisoner of war camp in the Russian-held part of the region where at least 40 Ukrainian prisoners were killed on Friday.

Russia accused Ukraine of shelling the camp in Olenivka, south of Donetsk city.

Ukraine says Russia deliberately murdered the prisoners and tried to stage a shelling to cover up its crime. The victims were members of the Azov regiment who defended the Azovstal steel works in Mariupol.


Telegraph reader Jonathan Karmi comments:

“The West must do much, much more to help Ukraine counter the Russian fascists. Every day brings atrocities and more stories of vile behaviour. As of now, a world without Russia would be a better place.”

Jimmy Thomas:

“Putin is evil incarnate…Satan personified…until his death when another worse will take his place. Read Revelation.”

Hue Thomas:

“The Russians have proven themselves to be be the subhuman scum that Hitler said they were. He wanted to exterminate them. We should have let him get on with it instead of wasting our resources on lend lease. He never intended to invade Britain anyway.”

Evelyn Macfarlane

“I feel for Mr Vadatursky’s family I hope he had children to take up the family business. It would be extremely sad if he did not. The West and in the main, Europe, are sitting on their hands hoping it will all go away. It will not. If they don’t up real support pronto to Ukraine they will really regret it. Meanwhile why are we exporting electricity to France and still paying the EU fortunes for a science project they’ve excluded us from for 2 years. Cancel the cheques now.”

Charles Despeville:

“Russia now is a dangerous mix of fascistic ideas and their mongol infused ghoulish brutality.”

Jake Roycroft:

“Russia an immoral pariah state. The Russian population should live in ignominy as supporters of this disgusting murderous regime.”

Charles Fielding:

“Russia has accused Ukraine of shelling the camp in Olenivka” and the Red Cross still haven’t been given access to the POW camp. But of course not. Not until Russia has attempted to clear up the evidence and plant their own.”

Ver Cr:

“The Russians will lose because they have no honour. They have no morals. They are not civilised. And they will lose and no one will want to associate with them. This is not just one man. Putin does not order every strike. This is a nation that is beneath contempt.”

Troll : “Granville Stout”:

“Why do you think the US selected an actor such as Zelensky to lead Ukraine? If you ain’t figured it out by now, you ain’t thinking.”

Reply to the troll from Samantha Saunders:

“You may as well stop your malevolent trolling. No-one here believes you. The Russians themselves are doing the most brilliant job in making even those Ukrainians that were pro-Russian hate them, with their barbaric attacks on hospitals and schools in a country that has not once attacked Russia.”

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