Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 23.01.2018
Russian invader-occupiers of Crimea and Donbas have been throwing Ukrainians into basement dungeons from the start of their aggression. On 27 December 2017, some Ukrainians who were prisoners of war or civilian hostages of the Russian occupation administration were freed in a prisoner swap. A nurse, Halyna Hayeva, and a professor, Ihor Kozlovsky – Ukrainian patriots – were among the 73 who went from Russia-occupied Ukraine to free Ukraine.
Freed hostages confirm that Russia is invading Ukraine and the areas not controlled by the Ukrainian government are areas under Russian occupation administration. They confirm that Russian regular troops are in battle, and have been from the beginning. They confirm that Russian artillery is shooting from one place in Russia-occupied territory to residential areas in Russia-occupied territory – targeting Ukrainian civilians – trying to blame the Ukrainian armed forces for the war crime. And they confirm that the fake ‘republics’ in Donbas are in fact constructs of Russia’s Federal Security Service (the FSB).
Halyna Hayeva was a hostage of the Russian occupation administration in Donetsk region (called by Kremlin propaganda the “DPR”) for 15 months. She was released along with other Ukrainian hostages and prisoners of war who were exchanged on 27 December 2017, and is now in free Ukraine. Halyna Hayeva is a maternity nurse and was working in a Donetsk hospital when Russia invaded Ukraine, starting on 20 February 2014.
Halyna Hayeva was able to directly observe a fact which Kremlin propaganda was desperate to deny: Russian professional soldiers were active and leading participants in the war in Donbas. Ms Hayeva gave an interview to "Glavred" agency, where she said: “I really did have access to the sort of information that the terrorists were concealing, for example, that Russians were being treated in the hospital … not just Russian citizens. These were professional Russian soldiers.”
The policy of Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine is to deny that Russian soldiers who are killed, wounded or captured were Russian soldiers on active service at the time. Ms Hayeva said: “All of the rank and file soldiers had their documents taken away. And then when one of them arrived at our hospital with wounds, they came to him and said that he wasn’t a soldier, that he’d been dismissed the day before. When the man is already missing an arm or a leg, he’d shout, “How am I not in service? How?” That was how it goes. That’s the kind of practice there.”
Hayeva recalls paratroopers from Pskov, Russia. They wore their distinctive berets with the Russian flag, and had the Russian flag on their equipment. For a time, the Pskov paratroopers were stationed outside the hospital. As many as 70 paratroopers from Pskov were killed in the fighting in August 2014. At that time, five or six Russian regular troops were admitted to Hayeva’s hospital at a time, most with wounds requiring amputation.
While a hostage, Halyna Hayeva, learned that the so-called “ministry of state security of the DPR” was in fact entirely controlled by the FSB from Rostov, Russia. This jibes with what former hostage Professor Ihor Kozlovsky reported.
Hayeva also says that Russian occupation troops fired artillery from one end of Donetsk to the other, targeting civilians, and attempted to blame the Ukrainian armed forces. Russian propaganda TV outlets like LifeNews and Russia-24 would learn address to be hit ahead of time, to gain images for their broadcasts. Hayeva says she had no need to find out about what the Russians were doing second-hand: “Why? We saw it all ourselves!”
Ihor Kozlovsky is a professor of religious studies who was also in the prisoner swap on 27 December 2017. He was a hostage of the Russian occupation regime for close to two years because he would not betray his loyalty to Ukraine. Professor Kozlovsky gave an interview to Hromadske where he independently confirmed the observations of nurse Halyna Hayeva. He had the same experience with jailors, interrogators and torturers of the Russian occupation administration. Professor Kozlovsky also found that the entire concept of ‘pro-Russian separatists’ was a fabrication. He said the so-called "Donetsk “ministry of state security of the DPR“ is curated by Russia's FSB.
Professor Kozlovsky believes there are few active local supporters of the Russian occupation left, and most Ukrainians in Donbas are now passively anticipating liberation. The Russians persecute not only pro-Ukraine figures like Ihor Kozlovsky, but also their adherents from 2014-15. As Kozlovsky put it in a December interview immediately after his release from captivity: “That’s what happens in history – there’s a revolution, and then they destroy those who made it.” Russia has given up on the pretence that its invasion of Crimea and Donbas in 2014 was any kind of a ‘rebellion’ so it is strange that the Western press keeps up the false, four year old narrative of Ukrainians who are ‘pro-Russian.’
Ihor Kozlovsky is unbowed by his experience as a hostage of the Russian occupation regime. He said to Hromadske: “We should never give up our territories. No way! It's our land. And it's not just territory. It's also the people living there. They are our fellow citizens.”
Halyna Hayeva and Ihor Kozlovsky are giving valuable information about the Russian occupation administration in Donbas and how Russian armed forces are conducting the war. Russia is invading Ukraine; there is no ‘rebellion.’ Russian soldiers are at war, not ‘pro-Russian separatists.’ There is a Russian occupation administration; there are no ‘people’s republics.’ There is no ‘crisis in Ukraine’ – there is only a war by Russia against Ukraine.