CNN obtained surveillance videos of what is now being investigated as a war crime by Ukrainian prosecutors.
His daughter, Yulia, can’t bear to watch the video of the day her father died, but she’s saving him to show it to her children one day, so they don’t forget how savage the invaders were.
“They are executioners,” he told CNN. “It’s terrible because my father was a civilian, he was 68, a peaceful and unarmed man.”
Kill captured from multiple angles
Security camera images capture the first Russian attempt to take Kiev in March. On the main road to the capital, the fighting was fierce as Ukrainian forces fought Russian troops and tankers to stop the advance.
But what happened outside the car dealership on March 16 was not a battle between soldiers and not even armed soldiers and civilians.
The video was verified by CNN. It is compiled by a series of cameras around the property, and although it has no sound, its images are clear. It was a cowardly, cold-blooded killing of two unarmed men.
Five Russian soldiers arrive and try to break into the business, shooting at locks and breaking glass.
When the owner approaches with raised hands, they stop him and appear to be looking for weapons. Plyats then arrives and is also searched. There appears to be a conversation before the soldiers turn around and the two civilians begin to return to their guard post.
Then at least two of the soldiers approach behind the men and open fire. Both civilians fall to the ground.
CNN asked the Russian Defense Ministry for a comment but received no response.
In addition to the killing, the video shows many other unprofessional behaviors by the group of five soldiers, identified as members of the invasion force by their uniforms, analyzes of who controlled in which area at the time, and statements from witnesses.
Men are seen inside the dealership as they take off their armor and look through drawers and desks. A man takes a wool hat from a shelf and puts it on. Two men get drinks and apparently toast each other.
The grandfather tried to save himself
While the soldiers looted the assets, Plyats was still alive. The video shows him struggling to stand up, tie what looks like a tourniquet around his thigh, and limp back to his guard post.
There, he receives a phone for help.
That call went to his compatriots, plus Ukrainian citizens who stayed behind to defend their neighborhoods.
The disordered force of volunteers tried to save Plyats, exchanging fire with Russian forces as they struggled to reach him, said the group commander who did not want to be identified to protect his safety.
Surveillance footage shows Plyats slumped inside the guard hut as Ukrainians approach him. They drag him out, leaving a wide band of blood. He died there outside the guard cabin. The commander said he bled to death as the civilian fighters initially had to retreat, they simply did not have the firepower to deal with the tanks and weapons the Russians had in the area.
The civilian commander said Plyats and the owner of the dealership had been warned that the Russians were approaching but chose to stay. Plyats’ daughter said she believed in her duty to him, so she went to work. Neither seemed to have any idea how they would be treated as they approached the soldiers.
The volunteer fighter said what happened generated hatred of those Russian troops they killed for no reason and others like them.
“It’s definitely a war crime,” he said. “If there is a chance to reach them and capture them, I think they deserve the death penalty.”
Plyats’ daughter requested that her remains be cremated, as proper burial was impossible during the fighting. Her ashes still await her in her morgue and she hopes to one day bury them in her mother’s grave. All she can do now is remind her father of her “very cheerful” and hope for a measure of justice.
“They need to be judged,” he said of his killers. “I hope in an international court. I hope that not only Ukraine but the whole world will learn about their crimes”.