The relatives of the Azovstal defenders held a press conference. They claim that the Red Cross does not give any information about the captive Ukrainian military and that they have no connection with the POWs.
The press conference was attended by Kateryna Prokopenko, the wife of Azov regiment commander Denys Prokopenko, Tetiana Kharko, the sister of the 36th Marine Brigade commander Serhii Volynskyi, and Maryna Kravtsova, the wife of the ‘Bears’ detachment commander.
Recently, Ukraine returned home 144 POWs, among whom were 96 defenders of Azovstal. The Association of Defenders’ Families was present during the swap.
The sister of the 36th Marine Brigade commander Serhii Volynskyi said that they all have serious wounds and need emergency medical care.
The relatives of the defenders of Azovstal refrain from commenting whether the Ukrainians were tortured in captivity. Tetiana Kharko emphasized that such information can harm the exchange process, and the priority is the safety of soldiers who are still in captivity. She asked journalists to respect the heroes.
‘The released defenders will tell what they went through when they are ready. Until then, we encourage you to care about our heroes, not indulge your curiosity. I strongly ask journalists to respect the feelings of those who have returned from captivity. They now need recovery, mental and physical rehabilitation. The time will come, and they will tell everything’, Kharko stressed.
She added that the swap was the result of the work of President Zelensky, Ukrainian intelligence, the coordination headquarters and ‘absolutely every person who made efforts for the exchange’. Serhii Volynskyi’s sister said that this is just the beginning of the process, so efforts should be made to return the defenders home as soon as possible.
Kateryna Prokopenko noted that she has not heard her husband’s voice for a month and a half and has no idea about the conditions of his detention. A representative of the Red Cross must visit the prisoners twice a week, according to the Geneva Convention. However, families of the captured soldiers do not receive information from the organization.
About 2,500 defenders of Mariupol are currently in captivity. Kateryna Prokopenko is sure that all of them will return to Ukraine. However, it is not known where the commanders of the Azovstal defenders are held.
Marina Kravtsova urged not to trust the statements made by the defenders while they are in captivity.
‘The statements of our guys in the captivity were made under pressure. We should not react to the enemy’s provocations and we should understand that the enemy is speaking through the mouths of our guys,’ she stressed.
Ukraine adheres to the rules of the Geneva Convention and hopes that Russia will do the same.