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Monday, March 27, 2023

Captive Paramedic Camera Reveals Mariupol Horrors

KHARKIV ( Associated Press) — A lauded Ukrainian paramedic recorded her time in Mariupol on a small memory card, taken out into the world in a tampon. Now she is a prisoner of the Russians and Mariupol is about to fall.

Yuliia Paievska, who as a volunteer paramedic is known as Taira, used her body camera to record 256 gigabytes of video of her team’s frantic efforts to save lives. She gave the harrowing footage to a team from the Associated Press, the last international journalists in the Ukrainian city, as they left in a rare humanitarian caravan.

Russian soldiers captured Taira and her driver the next day, March 16, in one of many enforced disappearances in areas of Ukraine now held by Russia. Russia has said that she worked for the nationalist Azov Battalion, following Moscow’s line that she works to “de-Nazify” Ukraine. But the Associated Press found no evidence of that, and friends and colleagues say she had no links to Azov.

The hospital where she led the evacuation of the wounded is not affiliated with Azov. And the video she recorded shows her trying to save wounded Russian soldiers, along with Ukrainian civilians.

A clip from March 10 shows two Russian soldiers being carelessly pulled out of an ambulance by a Ukrainian soldier. One of them is in a wheelchair. The other is kneeling, his hands tied behind his back, with a leg wound.

A Ukrainian soldier curses one of them.

“Calm down, calm down,” Taira tells the Ukrainian soldier.

A woman asks him: “Are you going to treat the Russians?

Taira replies, “They wouldn’t be so nice to us. But he couldn’t do anything else. They are prisoners of war.”

Taira, 53, is now a prisoner of the Russians, like hundreds of local officials, journalists and other prominent Ukrainians who have been kidnapped or captured. The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has recorded 204 cases of enforced disappearances and says some of the victims may have been tortured and five were later found dead.

The Russians have targeted medical personnel and hospitals, despite the fact that the Geneva Convention prescribes protection “in all circumstances” for both military and civilian medical personnel. Russian soldiers accused a woman in a convoy from Mariupol on May 8 of being a military doctor and forced her to choose between letting her 4-year-old daughter accompany her to an unknown fate or continuing on to Ukrainian-controlled territory. . The mother and daughter were separated.

The Taira plight and what it reveals about Russia’s treatment of Ukrainian prisoners take on new meaning as the last defenders of Mariupol are moved to areas under Russian control. Russia says more than 1,700 Ukrainian fighters holed up in a steel plant surrendered this week, while Ukrainian authorities said the fighters left after completing their mission.

Ukraine’s government says it tried to include Taira’s name in a prisoner swap weeks ago. But Russia denies holding her, despite her appearance on television in the breakaway Donetsk region and on Russian television network NTV, handcuffed and with bruises on her face.

Taira is known in Ukraine as a sports star who trained the country’s volunteer medical force. The video she recorded from February 6 to March 10 provides intimate documentation of a besieged city that has already become a global symbol of Russian invasion and Ukrainian resistance.

On February 24, the first day of the war, Taira recounted the efforts to bandage the head wound of a Ukrainian soldier.

Two days later, he ordered his colleagues to wrap a wounded Russian soldier in a blanket. She calls the young man “Sun” — a favorite nickname for the many wounded soldiers who passed through his hands — and asks why he came to Ukraine.

“You’re taking care of me,” says the soldier, as if amazed. “Her response from him: “We treat everyone equally”.

Hours later, two children — brother and sister — arrive seriously injured from a shooting at a checkpoint. His parents are dead. By the end of the night, despite Taira’s pleas to “don’t go, little one”, the little boy dies too.

Taira turns her face away and cries. “I hate this,” she says.

During the video, she complains of chronic pain caused by injuries to her back and hips. joke. And, as always, she sports a stuffed animal on her vest to give to any child she cares about.

On March 15, a police officer hands the small memory card to Associated Press journalists. Taira, using a walkie-talkie, asked them to take out the Mariupol card. The card was hidden inside a tampon when the journalists passed through 15 Russian checkpoints.

The next day, Taira disappeared along with his driver, Serhiy.

A video shown on March 21 on a Russian news program announced his capture. In it, Taira looks dazed and haggard as she reads a statement calling for an end to fighting. As she speaks, a voiceover calls her colleagues Nazis.

Married with a teenage daughter, Taira knew what war can do to a family. At one point, a wounded Ukrainian soldier asked her to call her mother, and she told him that he could call her, “so don’t make her nervous.”

Taira’s husband, Vadim Puzanov, said he has received little news since her disappearance.

“Accusing a volunteer paramedic of all the deadly sins, including organ trafficking, is already outrageous propaganda — I don’t even know what for,” he said.

Taira was part of Ukraine’s team at the Invictus Games, a competition for military personnel who have been wounded. He received the body camera last year to film for a Netflix documentary series on inspirational figures produced by Britain’s Prince Harry, who founded the games.

Instead, she filmed the images of the war. In her last video of her, she is sitting next to the driver who would disappear with her. It is March 9.

“Two weeks of war. Mariupol under siege,” she says quietly. Then she curses and the image fades.


Associated Press writer Sarah El Deeb contributed from Beirut; Inna Varenytsia from kyiv; Mstyslav Chernov from Kharkiv; Erika Kinetz from Brussels; and Elena Becatoros in Zaporiya. Lori Hinnant reported from Paris.

World Nation News Desk
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