Two wives and a friend of Ukrainian forces captured or lost by Russian forces after they defended the Azovstal factory in a prolonged siege told CNN they had little or no information about the whereabouts of their loved ones.
“I have not communicated with my husband recently and have not received any information about him,” said Anna Ivleeva, the wife of Anton, a marine who was seriously wounded at Azovstal. The last time we spoke was on April 13th. Then his comrades sent me a message that he was still alive. ”
Ivleva said Ukrainian government officials have been in contact, but added that there was “no information” about where and under what conditions the Azovstal militants were being held. She hopes that her husband is alive, even if he is in captivity.
“All of us — families, wives and mothers of the Marines — stay together, we’re in touch 24/7,” she said. “We always share any available news, we are like family.”
The besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol fell under full Russian control earlier this month with the surrender of Azovstal, the city’s last stronghold of Ukrainian defenses. It is unclear how many Ukrainian troops are currently held by Russia, but the Russian military has claimed that more than 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers have surrendered there. Russian government propaganda has demonized Azovstal defenders as “Nazis” and raised serious concerns about how they would be treated in captivity.
A woman named Yana helped organize events in Kyiv to support the Azovstal fighters. Her friend from the marines was in Azovstal. She spoke on condition of anonymity, citing security concerns.
“I haven’t heard from him or anything about him,” she said. The last time we contacted her was on May 11th.
She said the Ukrainian government had not provided any information about her boyfriend’s whereabouts.
The ICRC called my friend’s mother [the International Committee of the Red Cross]”I don’t remember when exactly,” she said. “They just told her he’s alive, that’s it.”
The ICRC has been participating in the registration of combatants leaving the Azovstal factory since 17 May – in part to help prisoners of war keep in touch with their families. The organization has been operating in Ukraine since 2014, when the war began in the Ukrainian Donbass region.
Titiana, another wife of an Azovstal defender, said her husband was able to call her from an unknown number after the surrender and said some of his comrades are being held in a town in the separatist-controlled Donetsk Oblast. CNN agreed not to publish her last name for the same reasons.
“His voice was calm and confident,” she said. “The conditions in which they were held are good. It is possible in the future that they will receive some parcels,” he added.
Tetiana said she spoke to her husband for 10 minutes and her husband said he would try to call her again.
“That’s it, no more calls or texts,” she said.