‘Not taken care of like humans’: Ukrainian women of all ages on Russian captivity | Russia-Ukraine war Information

Kyiv, Ukraine – In Might, 26-year-outdated Ukrainian navy nurse Viktoria Obidina was compelled to component with her 4-12 months-previous daughter.

“I was happy she was not near me,” she told Al Jazeera, describing how she dependable a whole stranger to just take Alisa absent on a bus.

Mom and daughter have been in a filtration camp for Ukrainian prisoners of war captured in the southern town of Mariupol, and Obidina was about to be whisked away to a Russian detention centre.

“They could have tortured me close to her or could have tortured her to make me do items,” she described make a difference-of-factly.

“They” were being the Russian servicemen and pro-Russian separatists who interrogated her and around 1,000 Ukrainians who emerged from Azovstal, a huge metal plant that was the past Ukrainian holdout in besieged Mariupol.

Azovstal withstood just about a few months of consistent assaults, and its defenders remaining their underground bunkers only right after a immediate order from Kyiv.

(From L to R) Former prisoners Viktoria Obidina, a military nurse, Ukrainian medic Tetyana Vasylchenko, Inga Chikinda, an army marine, Lyudmyla Guseynova, a volunteer from the eastern Donetsk region, deliver a press conference in Kyiv on October 26, 2022. - Four of the women spoke to journalists in Kyiv on October 26, 2022 to recount what they have lived through: packed prison cells, hunger, physical abuse and humiliation. More than one hundred women were freed from Russian detention as part of a long-negotiated prisoner exchange with Moscow. (Photo by Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP)From left, previous prisoners Viktoria Obidina, a military services nurse Ukrainian medic Tetiana Vasylchenko Inga Chikinda, an military marine and Liudmila Guseinova, a volunteer from the japanese area of Donetsk, hold a push convention in Kyiv on Oct 26, 2022, immediately after they ended up freed [Sergei Supinsky/AFP]

The separatists threatened to sentence some servicemen to loss of life and kept them in concentration camp-like conditions for months, just as they do with countless numbers of other Ukrainian prisoners of war.

Some of the POWs are gals. And some have been subjected to hunger, torture and sexual humiliation, Ukrainian officials and previous POWs say.

“These individuals hold very little sacred,” Inga Chikinda, a Lithuania-born marine who was among the 108 servicewomen and civilians launched on Oct 17 in a POW swap.

“There were periods when we have been starving,” Chikinda explained to Al Jazeera. “We have been not dealt with like humans.”

She lost 8kg (17.6 pounds) in 1 of the Russian jails.

Their captors retained them absent from non-Russian information shops and any contact with their family members and Ukrainian officers.

Viktoria-Obidina-a-prisoner-of-war-released-after-165-days-of-captivity-at-a-news-conference-in-Kyiv.jpgViktoria Obidina will be reunited with her four-12 months-old daughter in a thirty day period immediately after she gets psychological treatment [Mansur Mirovalev/Al Jazeera]

“We were being in an information and facts vacuum,” Tetiana Vasylchenko, a bookkeeper-turned-paramedic who was captured in Mariupol in early March, claimed at a Kyiv push convention on Wednesday.

“They cherished indicating, ‘Ukraine does not want you. No person wants to swap you,’” she mentioned.

But the females located means to maintain their spirits up.

A person time, 27 ladies packed in a tiny cell intended for 6 people today whispered the Ukrainian anthem, Vasylchenko explained.

“This was amazing,” she said. “All doubts disappeared. The girls’ eyes lit up.”

Paramedic-Tetiana-VasylchenkoParamedic Tetiana Vasylchenko, a previous POW, talks to reporters in Kyiv following her launch [Mansur Mirovalev/ Al Jazeera]

The women of all ages were routinely denied primary healthcare.

Liudmila Guseinova, who began serving to rural orphans living in the vicinity of the separatist-held spots in Donetsk in 2014, was captured in 2019.

“For 3 many years, I could not get an ophthalmologist to see me, to simply get a pair of glasses,” she said. Separatist leaders billed her with espionage, treason and extremism.

Right after 3 several years and 13 times in captivity, she has shed 70 percent of her eyesight, she said.

Like other POWs, Guseinova could only check out Russian tv channels but picked up on Moscow’s battlefield losses from the changing tone of information reports and discuss demonstrates.

“The angrier [TV anchors Olga] Skabeyev, [Vladimir] Solovyev and other Russian propagandists obtained, the much better we understood that Ukraine was winning,” she said.

A single of the locations the place Guseinova was held was Isolyatsia, a concentration camp in Donetsk where countless numbers of persons have allegedly been tortured due to the fact 2014.

Survivors say they ended up overwhelmed, waterboarded, shocked and raped with electric rods. They report obtaining their enamel and nails eliminated, getting buried alive for several hours and struggling with mock games of Russian roulette and executions.

Torture “goes on for hrs. You eliminate the feeling of time, and the most terrible point is that you simply cannot stop it,” Ihor Kozlovsky, a theologian who invested several months in Isolyatsia, advised Al Jazeera in 2021.

A armed forces official who organises army swaps stated the recently produced POWs appear broken and frustrated.

“When folks came out of the bus, there was a smell of worry, despair,” Colonel Volodymyr Petukhov instructed Al Jazeera.

“They stroll differently, they speak in different ways, they seem in another way,” he reported.

Kyiv considers the release of every single POW a priority – even if they have to be swapped for higher-profile figures suspected of spying for Moscow.

Professional-Kremlin Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, who was billed with higher treason, was among 55 individuals Ukraine swapped for 215 Azovstal defenders and other servicemen in late September.

“Ukraine remembers everyone,” said Petro Yatsenko, an author who aided negotiate the prisoner swap. “Ukraine will get all people back.”

Lyudmila GuseinovLyudmila Guseinova was launched on Oct 17, 2022, soon after a few a long time in separatist jails in eastern Ukraine [Mansur Mirovalev/ Al Jazeera]

Back in March, the Mariupol apartment developing that nurse Obidina and her daughter, Alisa, lived in was staying shelled when a Ukrainian serviceman calmly waited for them to pack up and go to a bunker below the Azovstal metal plant.

The serviceman was afterwards killed by a Russian sniper, she stated.

Alisa used almost two months in the bunker with other civilians, horrified by the regular bombardment by Russian planes, cruise missiles and artillery.

She served her mother hand out painkillers to wounded troopers, read through textbooks and played with other kids – but kept asking her mom about death.

“’Is this our previous day?’” she after requested.

Alisa pulled at the heartstrings of millions of Ukrainians following she was witnessed in the metal plant in a a shaky video filmed with a mobile mobile phone digicam.

As she leafed as a result of a book, the baby reported she required to go house and say hi there to her grandmother Svitlana.

But the video led to Obidina’s arrest and imprisonment.

When they came out of Azovstal’s underground hell, a Russian soldier recognised the little one.

“I was informed Alisa would be sent to an orphanage and I would be arrested,” Obidina said.

Luckily for us, a lady at the filtration camp in the southeastern city of Mangush instructed Obidina she could choose Alisa to Ukrainian-managed territory.

Obidina agreed proper absent.

Inga ChikindaInga Chikinda, a Ukrainian maritime and former POW, just after a information convention in Kyiv [Mansur Mirovalev/Al Jazeera]

Alisa’s bus used days stranded in no man’s land in the southern area of Zaporizhia.

Then Alisa reunited with her grandmother, and both fled to Poland, where the baby attends kindergarten and is studying Polish.

Her mother put in 165 days in focus camps in the separatist-held parts of Donetsk.

A single was the sprawling Olenivka prison, the place 60 Ukrainian servicemen were being killed on July 29.

Moscow accused Ukraine of hitting their barracks with a US-equipped cruise missile, but media studies proposed the blast was prompted by the Russians and separatists.

Through her captivity, Obidina was authorized to connect with Alisa the moment, on the early morning just after her fifth birthday.

In exchange, her Russian captors coerced her into memorising anti-Ukrainian statements and indicating them on camera for a Kremlin-controlled tv community.

“I was compelled to say what they needed to hear,” Obidina mentioned.

Months later, she was swapped and returned to Ukraine. She in no way bought back again the documents, jewels, cell phone or money she handed about throughout her arrest.

She will reunite with Alisa after a number of weeks of psychological rehabilitation in the japanese town of Dnipro.

“I’m only a thirty day period away from her,” she stated with a radiant smile.