Window on the examination of a captured Ukrainian soldier, prisoner exchanges
Seriously wounded and captured by the Russians at Mariupol, Ukrainian soldier Gleb Strijko survived through weeks of suffering, threats and humiliation at his hands. Prisoner exchange until this savings, which allowed his mother to find him.
“One of his guards took pity on him,” Lesia Kostenko, the mother of the 25-year-old soldier, told AFP. Opens a rare window on the reality of prisoner exchanges between Ukraine and Russia.
Glib Stryjko was captured in April at Mariupol, a strategic port in southeastern Ukraine that had seen some of the fiercest fighting. Wounded and in bad shape, he was flown to Russia from pro-Russian separatist areas before he was suddenly placed on a plane to the Crimean peninsula, from where he returned home.
“After waiting for us on the bus, the driver said, ‘Guys, you can take a breath. You’re at home now. + I started crying,'” Gleb said in his hospital bed in Zaporizhia, a city in south-eastern Ukraine Said to.
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk, who is responsible for these talks, told AFP that more than 350 Kyiv soldiers have so far been released into exchanges, which are usually on a one-to-one basis of the same rank.
The release of Glib began on social media. A comrade saw him on a Telegram channel where pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine post pictures of captured enemy soldiers.
He then calls Lecia, relieved to learn that her son is alive. “That’s where we started looking,” she told AFP.
– From hospital to hospital –
On 10 April, stationed at the Mariupol steelworks, transformed into a stranded camp, Gleb Strijko was wounded by tank fire, then taken to the hospital by his comrades, where he was taken prisoner.
After being wounded in the pelvis, jaw and eye, he says he was taken along with other prisoners to Novoazovsk, a city under separatist control located near the Russian border.
“We were in the hospital but we were not getting any serious treatment,” he says. He stayed there for about a week before being transferred to an establishment in the separatist stronghold Donetsk.
It is there that he ends up accessing a telephone to warn his family, who are seeking help from the Ukrainian government.
“Her relatives contacted me and asked for my help – her mother, her brother, her friends. They were all looking for me,” says Ms. Verechchuk, who then takes up her case with the Russian authorities.
After refusing to keep him in his custody for some time, the latter eventually admitted to keeping him and agreed to replace him, she says.
In talking about his relationship with his jailers, Gleb exposes his indifference, but also a certain kind of cruelty.
The doctor usually did his duty, the soldier said, but there was also a nurse who cursed him in Russian and left his food on his bed, knowing full well that he was unable to feed himself. Same.
“Then she would come back and say ‘Are you done?’ And take the food,” he recalls.
– knife on the skin –
In the hospital, Gleb was constantly watched and sometimes bullied, even with a guard going so far as to pull a knife at his skin, threatening him: “I’d love to cut off your ear, or I will cut you as if Ukrainians cut them prisoner.
After a week in Donetsk, he was transferred again. Going to jail this time.
There will be traumatic episodes for the injured: she is carried in a blanket, lies on the floor of a bus, and is believed to be in very poor condition to finally leave the hospital. Then it is said that he was again taken by bus and then by ambulance to the Russian border.
He is told that he is on his way to Taganrog, a Russian city on the shores of the Azov Sea. But the ambulance is taking him to an airport and hours later, he runs away with the other wounded and detainees with their hands tied and their eyes covered with duct tape.
On 28 April, he landed in Crimea, a peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014, and discovered that he was being exchanged.
The Russians then take him along with three other seriously injured men to an undisclosed location, from where the two camps stare at each other a kilometer away.
“When we did that kilometer, I was very scared because who knows what could happen…”, recalls the soldier.
Her mother suspected that there was something in the pipe, but did not know the details. until Mrs. Verechchuk called to tell him the good news.
“I dropped my phone and started crying again,” she said.
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