A military medic gives first aid to an injured Ukrainian serviceman near the small city of Svitlodarsk, Ukraine, on June 10. File Photo by EPA-EFE
Sept. 15 (BP) — A Ukraine medic who treated casualties in dangerous areas for weeks described to U.S. lawmakers on Thursday the horrors of Russia’s ongoing war and what prisoners face in captivity.
The medic, Yuliia “Taira” Paievska gave details of the war in Ukraine to congressional lawmakers on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission.
The commission is an independent federal arm that promotes compliance with international human rights.
In her testimony, Paievska said that Russian forces have been particularly brutal in how they treat Ukrainians. In addition to targeting civilians, she said that troops also have been extremely cruel to captured prisoners.
“I’m a paramedic. My mission is saving lives,” she said.
Paievska, in fact, was taken prisoner in Mariupol — a key city in south Ukraine — and spent three months in captivity between March and June.
She told the panel on Thursday that she spent the first 20 days of her wartime service in Mariupol, and said it “was hell.” Russian troops often tortured captives for weeks before they died, she added.
She saw Russian troops beat one Ukrainian soldier for three hours before he was tossed “like a sock” into the basement. She said she personally witnessed prisoners in their cells “screaming for weeks and dying from the torture without any medical help.”
“Then in this torment of hell, the only things they feel before death is abuse and additional pain,” she said, adding that she personally saw several people die in captivity.
“Prisoners were forced to take off their clothes by their killers before they were murdered slowly and with slaughter.”
Mourners grieve a family member who was killed by Russian forces at a cemetery in Kharvi, Ukriane, on May 13. File Photo by Ken Cedeno/BP
Russian President Vladimir Putin and state-controlled media have never told Russian citizens about the true nature of Moscow’s war in Ukraine, which began in February. Putin at one time called it a “special military campaign” to root out neo-Nazis in the former Soviet republic. Experts and Western governments are virtually in universal agreement in refuting that claim, and say Putin’s war is nothing but a Cold War-style plan to expand Russian borders and increase power in Europe.
“Russians call me Nazi like they call every Ukrainian who fights them or simply doesn’t want Russia in Ukraine,” Paievska said.
In one particular instance, Paievska recalled one Russian soldier who asked if she knew why they were all being imprisoned and beaten.
“Because you can,” she answered, adding that her captors advised her to commit suicide.
Paievska described to lawmakers a number of other experiences — including young boy dying in her lap, burning cars with people inside, overwhelmed medical workers and people being mutilated “beyond recognition.”
Ultimately, Paievska was released from captivity in June — partly because she’d curried favor by treating Russian casualties in addition to Ukrainian wounded. Immediately before she was captured, she managed to pass a storage card to a journalist to get it out of Ukraine. On the card was bloody body camera footage of Paievska and others giving aid to the injured.