Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 06.01.2018
Prisoners were exchanged across Russia’s invasion of Europe battlefront on December 27. The former detainees received vastly different treatment while they were incarcerated and they’re getting completely different welcomes now that they’re back to their respective sides. Ukrainian prisoners of war and civilian hostages were tortured while they were held by the Russian military occupation regime in Donbas, but they’re being honoured and cared for now that they’re back in free Ukraine. Irregular soldiers and criminals who served with the terrorist formations, the so-called “LPR” and the so-called “DPR”, were treated according to the rules of war by Ukrainian authorities when they were captured, but they are being held on suspicion and kept out of sight now that they’re back in Russia-occupied Donetsk and Russia-occupied Luhansk.
Freed Ukrainians were met by President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, at the exchange point near Russia-occupied Horlivka, Ukraine. The many injured and traumatized were flown to hospitals in Dnipro and Kyiv. Also at the prisoner swap, and following up with the released Ukrainians through their hospitalization, was Vice Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Iryna Gerashchenko. She wrote about the horrific ill-treatment Ukrainian prisoners of war and civilian hostages received at the hands of their Russian captors: “Many have old head injuries, teeth are knocked out, which evidences torture (many were severely beaten during their first hardest days)... Everyone will be provided with medical care, dental services.”
A team of psychologists is working with the freed Ukrainians – some of them have been in “LPR”/“DPR” dungeons since the Battle of Debaltseve in early 2015. Vadym Svyrydenko, Presidential Commissioner for Rehabilitation of Donbas Conflict Soldiers said: “The guys did not retreat in themselves, they communicate, joke and their mood is normal. The state is the perspective. Their state improves after some sessions with the psychologists and we work with them.” Now that they can tell the stories of their ordeal freely, the Ukrainians will be providing witness testimony for future war crimes proceedings against the Russian invaders of Europe in Ukraine.
Even though they were terrorists and criminals, at war against the Ukrainian people, the “LPR” and “DPR” prisoners were treated with dignity and respect and according to the rules of war by the government of Ukraine while they were incarcerated. When it came time for the prisoner swap on December 27, nearly 30 refused to cross the line into Russia-occupied Donbas. Over 40 who had previously been pardoned simply refused to show up for the prisoner swap. More than one out of every five militant of the Russia-backed, Russia-led forces chose to risk further incarceration in Ukraine rather than go back under the authority of the Russian military occupation regime in Donbas.
Freed prisoners returning to Russia-controlled territory have been treated with suspicion and contempt by the Russian military occupation authorities. Most were held for interrogation by Russian intelligence services and their auxiliaries that operate in Donetsk and Luhansk. They will be on their own to try to get a job in the ruined economy of Russia-occupied Donbas. They will not be welcome to cross the international border into the Russian Federation.
Ukraine is fighting a just war of self-defence. Ukrainians treat their soldiers and fellow citizens with honour and care. Ukrainians treat the captured enemy according to the rules of war.
Russia is fighting an evil war of aggression and territorial conquest. Russians treat their soldiers, proxies, and supporters with contempt and carelessness. Russians torture captured Ukrainians in violation of the rules of war.