Valery Zakabluk, who was in Russian captivity for five weeks before being freed in a prisoner exchange, opens up about the harrowing conditions he had to persevere
A Ukrainian soldier has described how he and his comrades were forced by their Russian captors to stand in halting conditions for hours wearing only T-shirts.
Lieutenant Valery Zakabluk was among the soldiers captured while defending Snake Island in the Black Sea during the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In an interview with CNN, he described how he and his fellow soldiers were forced by Russian forces to lie confront down in the ground for seven hours closest after they surrendered.
After that he said they were taken to a hut where they were interrogated for two to three hours before boarding patrol boats destined for Russian-annexed Crimea.
Zakabluk, who was held for five weeks before being freed in a prisoner exchange, explained how his conditions deteriorated quickly after his first fortnight in captivity.
He said he and his comrades were initially held in barracks in Sevastopol, where the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet is located, and filmed being given food to show how well they were being treated.
But from there Zakabluk said he believes they were transported to somewhere in the north of Russia or Siberia where they were put in a prison van and treated like inmates.
He said: “We were taken somewhere where it was very cold and for three or three-and-a-half hours we were kept outside and some of us were wearing T-shirts and some of us had frostbite.
“And then we were taken into tents, one by one, and interrogated and then ultimately put into prison.”
He additional that when they were brought there they were treated “as shared criminals” and made to kneel for three hours at a time and some men were hit with guns.
Zakabluk’s unit initially told the Russian warship Moskva to “go f*** yourself” and rejected an offer of safe passage when they learned they would have to lay down their arms in return.
“We stayed and continued to fight, but the Russians destroyed our air defences,” he said.
Their command ultimately made the decision to surrender as the soldiers, who had been running between bomb shelters, were almost out of ammunition.
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