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Starved, beaten, tasered: returned Azovstal defender recounts torture in Russian captivity

Mikhailo Dianov, a sergeant in the 36th AFU brigade and a defender of Azovstal freed from Russian captivity, was interviewed by the Front 18 YouTube channel and said he and other Ukrainian soldiers were brutally tortured in Russian captivity. The men were starved, beaten with truncheons, tasered, and had needles inserted under their fingernails.

In September, Kyiv and Moscow conducted a large-scale exchange of prisoners of war: Ukraine was finally able to return 215 fighters to their homeland. Among them was the marine Dianov, one of Azovstal's most famous defenders. They were exchanged for the oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk who has close ties to the Russian President.

Dianov was captured in mid-May. By this time, he had an external fixation device on his arm - the man had been wounded back in March, and the device was helping his bones to heal. During one of the attacks, the marine fell to the ground and the device bent, which caused his bones to fuse together in a semi-circular fashion. Then the device finally broke and the wound began to rot. He did not receive any normal medical care in Russian captivity. The device was removed in Donetsk.

“The doctor came to see me. He said, “Well, Misha, shall we take off your device?” I saw him lay out car wrenches. The wrenches didn't fit, and he started twisting the device with rusty pliers. I said: “Can you at least give me something for the pain? It's supposed to be done under anesthesia.” He said: “Well, let us give you an injection of ketorolac.”

According to Dianov, the prisoners (he was in the colony in Yelenovka) starved to death, and if they were fed, they were given mixed fodder for animals. They were allowed 30 seconds to eat. During this time, they had to eat hard bread with boiling water, which was physically impossible.

“A person can be cut, beaten, but you can endure any pain. Hunger is much worse. It's just horrendous. When you close your eyes, all you see is food. You don't see your family, you don't care if Ukraine is free or not, you are not interested in anything. If you want to destroy a man morally or physically - just don’t feed him.”

Military men were beaten with truncheons - for any reason. One could be beaten for nodding his head “wrong”, for turning “the wrong way”.

“Most often I was beaten when they took me to the investigation committee. I was beaten on my head with a gun butt. For turning my head the wrong way, for nodding the wrong way, for failing to lift my arm. I said I couldn't lift my arm. First, they hit me a couple times, and they were like: “Ah, you can't lift...” And then hey hit me once again.”

During the prisoner exchange, Russia (in addition to Medvedchuk) also returned 55 captive Russians to their homeland. According to The Washington Post, the FSB tried to dissuade Vladimir Putin from taking this step because of the predictably negative reaction from his supporters. According to an anonymous Ukrainian official, the FSB “was categorically against it because it realized how this deal would look to the public.”

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