More than a year ago, an explosion occurred in colony №120 in occupied Olenivka. More than 50 soldiers of the Azov regiment were killed and more than 70 were seriously injured. A soldier of the Azov regiment, Oleksandr, was seriously injured in a terrorist attack in barrack №200. Currently, Russia does not allow international organisations to visit Ukrainian prisoners of war, so the defender’s relatives do not know where and in what conditions he is being held.
The journalists of Slidstvo.Info spoke to Svitlana, the wife of Oleksandr, a member of the Azov military regiment who was seriously injured in the explosion. He is still in captivity, but it is not known exactly what happened to him and where he is. The video has English subtitles.
MARIUPOL WAS HELL ON EARTH
Oleksandr has been serving in the Azov regiment since 2015. The family has lived in Mariupol all these years. In the summer of 2021, Svitlana’s husband resigned from the regiment.
“We wanted to live a peaceful life, we had our own plans. They almost came true, but on 24 February in the morning, my brother called and said that a full-scale invasion had begun. And at 6 am, he put on a military uniform and went to his unit to defend our Ukraine. And the wait began. A very difficult wait,” Svitlana recalls.
The occupiers began to destroy Mariupol – the city was bombarded with rockets, Grads and aerial bombs.
“Our relatives are all heroes, all those who defended Mariupol. Because Mariupol was a hell on earth, a real hell,” says Svitlana.
The last time Svitlana saw her husband was on 7 March 2022. He came home on the quietest day. There was no water, electricity or gas in the city.
“He came, washed himself in cold water, and changed his uniform. And he said that everything would be fine, everything would be okay. He reassured me. But then we already understood that nothing was going to be okay,” says Svitlana.
The woman stayed in Mariupol until 17 March. She miraculously managed to leave with her neighbour.
“WE ARE GOING INTO HONOURABLE CAPTIVITY, WE WILL RETURN IN 3-4 MONTHS”
Svitlana lost contact with her husband. But she knew he was at Azovstal.
“He called me later, when he was getting out, so to speak, into honourable captivity, when they were being handed over. It was from 19 to 20 May, at about 12 am. He called via video link and said: “Don’t worry, we are going into honourable captivity, in 3-4 months we will return and everything will be fine,” Svitlana recalls.
Five days later, the woman received a call from the International Committee of the Red Cross and was informed that Oleksandr was registered with them as a prisoner of war.
“Then we called other wives, relatives of the military, and it turned out that on 16 May the Red Cross wasn’t making any lists at all. And thus, many of those who were captured on 16-17 May were not registered as prisoners of war. And I know a lot of families who are still trying to get their relatives to be registered as prisoners of war, not missing persons,” says Svitlana.
Oleksandr managed to call his wife several times when he was already in captivity in Olenivka. The couple spoke on 26 June 2022. After that, the connection was cut off.
“He said they were being fed poorly, there was almost no drinking water. But they are holding on, he said: ‘Everything will be fine, don’t worry, we are strong, we will survive all this,” Svitlana recalls.
At the end of December last year, Svitlana learned that Oleksandr was seriously injured in an explosion in Olenivka. The released prisoners of war also told her that he had only started walking in early December.
According to them, the Russians transferred the prisoners of the Azov regiment to barracks №200 on the eve of the explosion.
“They (the released prisoners of war — ed.) said they saw the guys being forced into this barrack, how they themselves were carrying some beds and household items there. And then at night they heard an explosion. We saw the barrack burning, our loved ones screaming, how hard it was for them there,” Svitlana says.
The woman was looking for her husband on her own in the lists of wounded and dead. The International Committee of the Red Cross has not yet confirmed that Oleksandr was injured in Olenivka.
The organisation told the journalists that Russia does not allow them to visit the prisoners, even though they asked for it. The delegates first arrived in Olenivka a few days after the prisoners of war were taken there.
“There was no drinking water in sufficient quantities, so a couple of days later our specialists brought water tanks. There were no more visits, although the International Committee of the Red Cross has repeatedly requested access to people in Olenivka. In particular, after the tragedy. We demanded access not to the place, but to the people. Including the wounded,” the International Committee of the Red Cross told Slidstvo.Info.
Svitlana hopes that in the near future Russia will hand over the prisoners of war wounded in Olenivka to Ukraine.
“It is very difficult to talk about this because this pain does not calm down. We are waiting for our loved ones all the time, we are fighting for them, we are doing everything possible to bring them back. But, unfortunately, time goes by, but everything remains in place. We hope and believe that our relatives will return to their families.”