CNN has obtained surveillance videos of what is now being investigated as a war crime by Ukrainian prosecutors.
His daughter, Yulia, can’t bear to see the video of the day her father died, but she saves it to show her children one day so they don’t forget how furious the invaders were.
“They’re executioners,” she told CNN. “It’s terrible because my father was a civilian, he was 68, a peaceful unarmed man.”
Dead caught from multiple angles
The images from security cameras show the first Russian attempt to take Kiev in March. On the main road to the capital, fighting was fierce as Ukrainian troops fought against Russian troops and tankers to stop the advance.
But what happened outside the car dealership on March 16 was not a battle between soldiers or even soldiers and armed civilians.
The video has been verified by CNN. It is made up of a number of cameras around the property and although it has no sound the pictures are clear. It was a cowardly, cold-blooded murder of two unarmed men.
Five Russian soldiers arrive and attempt to break into the businesses by shooting at locks and smashing glass.
When the owner approaches with raised hands, they stop him and seem to search him for weapons. Plyats then arrives and is also searched. A conversation seems to ensue before the soldiers turn away and the two civilians begin to walk back to their guard post.
Then at least two of the soldiers come after the men and open fire. Both civilians fall to the ground.
CNN has asked for comment from the Russian Defense Ministry, but has received no response.
In addition to the killings, the video shows much more unprofessional behavior by the group of five soldiers identified as members of the invading force by their uniforms, analysis of who was controlling which area at the time, and witness statements.
The men are seen inside the dealership removing their body armor and looking through drawers and desks. A man takes a bobble hat from a shelf and puts it on. Two men get a drink and apparently toast to each other.
The grandfather tried to save himself
While the soldiers looted the companies, Plyats was still alive. The video shows him struggling to his feet, tying what appears to be a tourniquet around his thigh, and stumbling back to his sentry.
There he gets a phone to call for help.
That appeal went to his compatriots, more Ukrainian citizens who stayed to defend their neighborhoods.
According to the group’s commander who declined to be identified to protect his safety, volunteers’ ragtag troops attempted to rescue Plyats, exchanging fire with Russian troops as they struggled to reach him.
Surveillance footage shows Plyats slumping in the guard cabin as the Ukrainians reach him. They drag him out, leaving a large swath of blood. He died there outside the guardhouse. The commander said he bled to death when the civilian fighters were initially forced to withdraw, they simply did not have the firepower to deal with the tanks and guns the Russians had in the area.
The civilian commander said Plyats and the dealership owner had been warned that the Russians were getting closer, but chose to stay. Plyats’ daughter said that he believed in fulfilling his duty, so he set to work. Neither man seemed to have any idea how they would be treated if they approached the soldiers.
The volunteer said what happened has sparked hatred against the Russian troops who killed for no reason and others like her.
“It’s definitely a war crime,” he said. “If there is an opportunity to reach and capture them, I think they deserve the death penalty.”
The daughter of Plyats asked for his remains to be cremated, because a proper burial was impossible during the fighting. His ashes are still waiting for her in the morgue, and she hopes that one day she will be able to bury them in her mother’s grave. All she can do now is remember her “very cheerful” father and hope for some measure of justice.
“They need to be judged,” she said of his killers. “I hope for an international court. I hope that not only Ukraine, but the whole world will learn about their crimes.”