A famous Ukrainian doctor whose footage was smuggled out of the besieged city of Mariupol by an Associated Press team was freed by Russian forces on Friday, three months after she was captured on the city’s streets.
Yuliia Paievska is known in Ukraine as Taira, a nickname she chose in the World of Warcraft video game. Using a body camera, she recorded 256 gigabytes of her team’s two-week effort to save the wounded, including Russian and Ukrainian soldiers.
She transferred the clips to a team from the Associated Press, the last international journalists in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, and one of the team members fled with it embedded in a tampon on March 15. . Taira and a colleague were taken prisoner by Russian forces in March. On Dec. 16, the same day, a Russian airstrike hit a downtown theater, killing around 600 people, according to an Associated Press investigation.
“It was such a great relief. It sounds like such ordinary words, and I don’t even know what to say,” her husband, Vadim Puzanov, told The Associated Press Friday night, breathing deeply to contain his emotion. Puzanov said he spoke on the phone with Taira, who was on his way to a hospital in Kyiv, and that he feared for his health.
Initially, the family had remained silent, hoping that the negotiations would run their course. But the Associated Press spoke to him before posting the contraband videos, which eventually drew millions of viewers around the world, including on some of the biggest networks in Europe and the United States. Puzanov expressed his gratitude for the coverage, which showed Taira trying to rescue Russian soldiers as well as Ukrainian civilians.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced Taira’s release in a national speech.
“I am grateful to everyone who worked for this result. Taira is already at home. We will continue to work to free everyone,” he said.
Hundreds of prominent Ukrainians have been abducted or captured, including local officials, journalists, activists and human rights defenders.
Russia has described Taira as working for the nationalist Azov Battalion, in line with Moscow’s narrative that he is trying to “denazify” Ukraine. But AP found no such evidence, and her friends and colleagues said she had no connection with Azov, who made one last stand at a Mariupol steelworks before hundreds of his fighters were killed. captured or killed.
The images themselves are a visceral testament to his efforts to save the wounded on both sides.
A clip recorded on March 10 shows two Russian soldiers being dragged out of an ambulance by a Ukrainian soldier. One is in a wheelchair. The other is on his knees, his hands tied behind his back, with an obvious leg injury. Their eyes are covered with winter hats and they wear white armbands.
A Ukrainian soldier insults one of them. “Calm down, calm down,” Taira told him.
A woman asks him: “Are you going to treat the Russians?”
“They won’t be so nice to us,” she replies. “But I couldn’t help it. They are prisoners of war.”
Taira was a member of the Ukrainian Invictus Games for military veterans, where she had to compete in archery and swimming. Invictus said she served as a medical officer from 2018 to 2020, but has since been discharged.
She received the body camera in 2021 to film a Netflix documentary series about inspirational characters produced by Britain’s Prince Harry, who founded the Invictus Games. But when Russian forces invaded, she used it to shoot scenes of civilians and wounded soldiers instead.
The Battle of Donbass Continues
Elsewhere in Ukraine, the industrial city of Severodonetsk, a prime target of Moscow’s offensive to take full control of the eastern Luhansk region, came under heavy artillery and rocket fire as Russian forces attacked areas outside the city, the Ukrainian army announced on Saturday.
The attack on towns just south of Severodonetsk was repelled by Ukrainian forces, Lugansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said on the Telegram messaging app.
Russia says its aim now is to take full control of Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk, which together form Donbass – a contested eastern region home to Moscow-backed separatists – after an initial campaign to take the capital Kyiv was defeated. thwarted by fierce resistance.
Zelensky, whose challenge inspired Ukrainians and won him global respect, said on Saturday he visited soldiers on the southern front line in the Mykolaiv region, offering a new message of hope to his return.
“Our brave men and women. Each one of them is working hard,” he said on his official Telegram account. “We will definitely hold on! We will definitely win! »
A video posted to his account showed Zelensky in his trademark khaki t-shirt handing out medals and posing for selfies with the military. Zelensky did not specify when the trip took place.
Ukrainian authorities reported overnight shelling of several locations in the eastern regions of Luhansk and Kharkiv and further west in Poltava and Dnipropetrovsk. Early Saturday, Russian rockets rained down on a suburb of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, hitting a municipal building and starting a fire in an apartment building but causing no casualties, a regional governor said.
Reuters could not independently confirm the battlefield accounts.
Moscow denies targeting civilians in what it calls a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect Russian speakers there from dangerous nationalists. Kyiv and its allies dismiss this as a baseless pretext for war.
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Post expires at 8:20am on Wednesday June 29th, 2022