Russia uses Ukrainian prisoners of war to cause protests in Kyiv — Politico
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Russia uses Ukrainian prisoners of war to cause protests in Kyiv — Politico

Prisoners of war
Source:  Politico

Ukrainian prisoners of war began to call their relatives en masse. However, during the calls, under obvious pressure from Russia, they are calling on their relatives to protest in order to discredit the Ukrainian authorities.

Russia uses prisoners to put pressure on Kyiv

Petro Yatsenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War, told POLITICO that such calls have become widespread.

A prisoner have not heard from his relatives for more than a year, and then he calls and says he is alive. The Russians are ready to exchange him, but Ukraine is doing nothing. Recently, such calls have become widespread. That's why we have realised that this is a campaign to provoke distrust in the Ukrainian government," Yatsenko said.

Since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, 48 exchanges have taken place, resulting in the return of 2,598 people from Russia's prisons. However, the last major exchange took place on 7 August.

The husband of Valentyna Tkachenko, a 35-year-old mother of two from the city of Chernihiv, was taken prisoner on 24 February 2022. His unit was guarding the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

Since then, she has heard from him only once — a short handwritten note: "I'm alive, I'm fine." On 29 November, she received a video call on Viber online messenger.

It was Serhii. We talked for only three minutes. I was not allowed to ask him any questions. As soon as I tried, he shook his head and simply said "no". Instead, he said: "Valya, go, make life difficult for Kyiv. Kyiv does not want us back". Then he apologised and ended the conversation, promising to call back if he would have a chance," recalls Valentyna Tkachenko.

POLITICO writes that Russia's refusal to exchange prisoners of war is aimed at stirring up tensions in Ukrainian society amid the low effectiveness of the summer counteroffensive and the blocking of aid to Ukraine in the US and EU Senates.

Treatment of Ukrainian prisoners of war

Russia is holding more than 3,000 Ukrainian servicemen and about 28,000 civilians, according to the Ukrainian Ombudsman's Office and the Ministry of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories. However, the actual number may be higher.

For example, there is still no confirmation of some of those in captivity. These people are still considered 'missing', although we have information that they may be in captivity," said Yatsenko.

It is not known how many Russians are being held by Ukraine. However, there are so many that a second camp had to be built for them. Russians are also being held in a special reception centre in western Ukraine and housed in pre-trial detention cells.

According to Yatsenko, more than 90% of prisoners of war interviewed after their return from Russian captivity say they were tortured and deprived of food and sleep.

People are forced to burn their tattoos or consume only Russian propaganda. They are not allowed to communicate with their relatives.

Ukraine hopes to force the Kremlin to resume the exchanges thanks to the growing number of Russian prisoners of war.

As soon as we accumulate necessary resources, we will exchange them for our Ukrainian defenders... I very much hope that the process will start in the near future," Zelenskyy said at a press conference last week.

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