The capture of a soldier from Ukraine by the Russians in Mariupol

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A young Ukrainian soldier witnesses how he was captured by the Russians in early April. Meanwhile, he’s back in good hands after being swapped with a Russian and testifying from his hospital bed. “Guys, you can breathe again. You’re home.”

Gleb Strejko, 25, was one of the Ukrainian soldiers defending the Azovstal steel plant in the besieged port city of Mariupol. But on April 10 he was hit by a tank shelling of the factory. Other soldiers took him to the hospital, but the Russians captured him there.

The young man was wounded in the pelvis, jaw and eye and was taken from hospital to the separatist-controlled city of Novoazovsk near the Russian border. A week later, he was transferred to the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. “We were in the hospital, but we did not receive any serious treatment,” he said from his hospital bed in Zaporizhia. The doctors did their duty, but there was also a nurse who insulted him in Russian and left his meals at his bedside, knowing full well that he could not feed himself. Then you come back and say, ‘Are you ready? “And take the food away,” he recalls. In the hospital, Gleb was under constant surveillance and sometimes threats. One of the guards even ran a knife through his skin and threatened him: “I would like to cut off your ear, or cut you to pieces like the Ukrainians cut their captives to pieces.”

A week later it was moved again. This time to a prison near the Russian border. There he was told that he was going to Taganrog, a Russian city on the shores of the Sea of ​​Azov. But he was eventually put on a plane with his other teammates. Their hands were tied and their eyes were covered with duct tape. At the end of April, he arrived in Crimea, annexed by Moscow in 2014.

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There he was told that he would be traded with a Russian fighter. Then the Russians took him and three others who were seriously wounded to an undisclosed location, where the two sides faced each other a kilometer away. “As we walked that mile, I was very afraid because who knows what might happen,” the soldier recalls. “When we got on the bus that was waiting for us, the driver said: Guys, you can breathe. now you’re home† I started crying.

Denton Watson

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