Azovtal fighter Mikhailo Dianov was in Russian captivity for four months. He was recently released in a prisoner exchange. Now he speaks for the first time about the experiences. He tells of torture, humiliation and pain that will probably remain.

The picture is shocking: the Ukrainian marine and Azovtal fighter Mikhailo Dianov was completely emaciated after four months in Russian captivity, his arm was swollen and unnaturally dislocated. In September he was released in a prisoner exchange with 215 other prisoners of war. In an interview he now reports on his time in Olenivka prison, which he himself describes as a “concentration camp”.

“They treated us like animals,” he says to “Sky News” (Sunday). Dianov reports being beaten with sticks, electric shocks and needles under the fingernails. He says they were put in solitary confinement and tortured, for example, because they picked up a berry and ate it.

He would have lost a total of 40 kilos in four months, he reports. “It was impossible to eat.” Because: “You had 30 seconds for each meal, then you had to stop. Then you had to get up immediately and run away.” He says: “Believe me, when you close your eyes after a month of starvation, you forget your family, your country, everything. The only thing on your mind is food.”

Dianov was with other fighters in Olenivka prison in Russian-occupied Donetsk. He says he was crammed into a block for 150 with 800 other prisoners. The conditions were so cramped that his leg muscles atrophied. Even walking is now a challenge.

He had already broken his right arm in Mariupol. There is a picture of him from back then with an arm sling (see a comrade’s Instagram post). In captivity, he was then “ruthlessly” operated on – with forceps and without anesthetic. The injury did not heal, the arm looks unnaturally dislocated.

He also tells about the moment of release. “We were stripped completely naked. They took our casts off, everything. They searched us. And then we had to crouch like that for five hours,” he recalls. “We didn’t know what was going to happen to us.”

Then they were blindfolded with tape. A graze on his nose still shows exactly where. For 36 hours he was out and about with taped eyes – on the bus, on the plane, again on the bus. Then the tape was removed and he found that he was in Ukraine.

He now has to gain 20 kilos, then he will have another operation on his arm. But even if his arm heals, the psychological consequences will probably remain for a long time. “Everyone is traumatized,” he says, “I consider myself a mentally strong person, but a lot of things have lost their value for me.”

“Sky” writes that it is difficult to independently verify prison conditions. However, the wife of another released Azow Valley fighter reported similar experiences of her husband. She too would have spoken of a “concentration camp”. If true, they clearly violate the Geneva Conventions. Dianov says thousands of Ukrainian prisoners of war are still being held in Olenivka prison.

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