A Ukrainian from the Chernihiv region was buried alive by Russian soldiers after they questioned, tortured and shot him and his brothers. Because the bullet didn’t kill him, he was able to hide under his brother’s corpse and later free himself from the grave.

Ukrainian Mykola Kulichenko speaks of a “resurrection” as he stands next to the grave where he and his two brothers are buried. All three were previously tortured by Russian soldiers and tied to their knees and executed, he says. Mykola was the only survivor and was buried alive by the soldiers. “This story needs to be heard by everyone, not just in Ukraine but around the world,” Mykola told CNN.

The village where he lives, Dovzhyk in the Chernihiv region, has been under Russian occupation since the beginning of the war. But only since the Russians withdrew from the region in April has Mykola been able to tell of his terrible fate. In mid-March, Russian soldiers broke into Mykola’s home where he lived with his two brothers and sister, Mykola told CNN. A Russian column had previously been bombed and the soldiers had looked everywhere in the village for the culprits.

According to Mykola, the soldiers were convinced they had something to hide when they found her grandfather’s military medals and a military bag belonging to one of the brothers. The three were herded into a basement where they were interrogated for three days, he said. On the fourth day, the brothers were tortured until Mykola lost consciousness. “They beat me all over my body with a metal rod and put the barrel of a gun in my mouth,” he said.

Blindfolded and handcuffed, they were driven in a military vehicle by five Russian soldiers to an abandoned property. The soldiers dug a pit while the brothers knelt next to it, blindfolded, he continues. Then Myklola heard shots and noticed how his two brothers fell to the ground next to him. “I thought I was next,” he said.

But the bullet went into Mykola’s cheek and out next to his right ear. So he played dead to survive. The Russian soldiers threw the bodies into the pit and buried them. Mykola does not know how long he lay there, but he managed to wriggle out from under his older brother’s corpse. “It was hard for me to breathe with Dmytro on top of me, but using my arms and knees I was able to push my older brother to the edge of the pit and then climb out,” he said.

In the next house on the secluded road, a woman would have taken care of him until he could go back to his sister. “I came home and there was Mykola. I looked into his eyes and asked: Where are the others? He said there weren’t any others,” she recalls. The scars on his cheek and behind his ear are still visible today. Mykola then located the pit. On April 21, exactly a month after his brothers were executed, they were finally buried on Ukrainian soil.

The Prosecutor’s Office of the Chernihiv region has meanwhile opened an investigation into war crimes. Investigators confirmed to CNN that the brothers’ hands and legs were tied and they were blindfolded. According to local authorities, more than 11,600 suspected war crimes have been registered in Ukraine so far.