The 21-year-old Ukrainian Bogdan served in the “Azov” regiment, where he joined last year. Then he fell into Russian captivity, from where he was released on June 29 of this year. as part of a prisoner of war exchange operation. The start of the war on February 24 found him at the Azov training base near Mariupol.
At first, Bogdan, known by his nickname “Budapest”, could not even believe that a war had broken out. But news was already arriving about Russian missile attacks on Kyiv, Kharkiv, Zhytomyr and other Ukrainian cities.
Bogdan’s unit was sent to Mariupol. “We found out what was actually happening when Kherson and Berdyansk fell, and when we realized that Shirokino is no longer ours, but battles are being fought in Volnovakha,” the fighter said in an interview with DV.
He tells how on March 10, Mariupol was already completely surrounded by the Russians. With each passing day, the belief that the Mariupol garrison could handle the defense of the city on its own diminished. But not only in the city, but also in the entire Azov region, they were confident that Ukrainian reinforcements were on their way to Mariupol, which would break the Russian blockade. However, days passed and nothing happened. On the tenth day, Bogdan realized that no reinforcements would come, as they could not break their way into the city.
“And then I realized that there were only two options: either captivity or death,” says Bogdan. And then the command began to explain to them that the situation of the defenders was so hopeless that there was only one way out: capture. “That’s when I realized that we won’t be able to hold our positions for long,” says Bogdan.
During one of the battles, Bogdan was wounded in the head and was moved to a bunker at the Azovstal plant, where not long after all the defenders of Mariupol ended up. He doesn’t have many memories of that time, since he was lying injured the whole time. When there was water, his comrades brought him. “It was difficult with the food. There was only porridge – a cup a day, and sometimes only half a cup and a small piece of bacon,” says Bogdan.
And then the Russians dropped a bomb over the bunker and everyone was buried. Only Bogdan managed to dig out, the rest of the wounded died. After a few days, talk of capitulation began in Azovstal. Bogdan had no desire to surrender, but his comrades persuaded him. “They began to prove to me that there was no other way out. They also told me: ‘We are not obliged to die,'” the young man recalls.
“This is no evacuation”
Bogdan was aware that it was completely useless to negotiate with the Russians. “I understood that they are not preparing any evacuation for us, and that they will not forgive anyone. Let alone fighters from the “Azov” regiment!
First they took Bogdan to Novoazovsk. There he was met by people from the Red Cross who tried to extract information from him. After refusing to give them, he never saw Red Cross representatives again.
In captivity in Donetsk
Then he was transferred to Donetsk. They placed him in a former hospital that was full of wounded Ukrainian prisoners of war. And on a separate floor there were fighters of the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DPR). “In the rooms of the Ukrainian military, the door had to be open all the time so that it could be seen that we were not doing anything “illegal”. “We’ve been bombarding them for 8 years. He called us goats, freaks and whatnot.”
Then the FSB people appeared. “Most of all, they were interested in what kind of equipment was in “Azovstal” and where our ammunition warehouses were located. They were also interested in the officers, they wanted the names of all the officers,” says Bogdan. They also asked him how many people he had killed and why the “Azovites” were killing Russian soldiers. “I reminded them, they are the ones who invaded our homes with guns,” says Bogdan. Then a person from the Investigative Committee of Russia appeared, who asked him absurd questions such as: “Do the people of Azov love Stepan Bandera?”.
Bogdan heard that there was talk of an exchange of prisoners of war. But all efforts failed. Those of his comrades who were on the exchange lists were returning to the hospital. And when they told them that they would not exchange “Azovs”, he completely despaired. The thought that he would never see his loved ones again scared him.
But one day the wounded Ukrainian soldiers were told to pack up and prepare for a prisoner of war exchange. “I didn’t believe it, I was shocked,” recalls Bogdan. That’s how he ended up in Zaporozhye, where the Ukrainian doctors took very good care of his wound and his health.
Bohdan is convinced that the military command of Ukraine values every single soldier and is doing everything possible to speed up the exchange of prisoners of war. “Russian prisoners of war in Ukraine have more rights than in their own country,” says the Ukrainian fighter emotionally.
After recovering, Bogdan plans to return to the front: “I believe it is my duty to defend my country, to defend its interests and territorial integrity,” he says.
Source: Deutsche Welle