July 27, 2015
By Yelizaveta Mayetnaya, Olga Artemyeva, and Dmitriy Kirillov
Translated from Russian by J.Hawk
Gazeta.ru learned that the “GRU fighters” Aleksandr Aleksandrov and Yevgeniy Yerofeyev who were captured in LPR in May and transported to Kiev were exchanged for Ukrainian military personnel, according to an anonymous source in the Russian security community. The information was confirmed by a senior source in one of Ukraine’s security agencies.
The two Russian soldiers, “GRU Spetsnaz troopers”, Captain Yevgeniy Yerofeyev and Sergeant Aleksandr Aleksandrov, were exchanged for Ukrainian soldiers held prisoner by the self-proclaimed LPR and DPR. Aleksandrov’s lawyer Konstantin Kravchuk confirmed that the exchange had taken place. Russian MOD is not commenting on these reports, and no additional details of the operation were released.
“They were exchanged for several individuals, including Ukrainian citizens as well as citizens fo other countries which fought for Ukraine. I’ll add that our guys were severely tortured,” said an informed source from the security community.
“The discussions on exchanging Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev are continuing, we are hoping that it will happen, there’s progress in that direction,” said another attorney to the two prisoners, Oksana Sokolovskaya. She was not available for comment on Monday.
Sergeant Aleksandrov and his commander Captain Yerofeyev were taken prisoner by Ukrainian troops near Schastye in the Lugansk Region on May 16. Both were wounded. A Ukrainian soldier, Vadim Pugachev, was killed in the fight. During an interrogation the captured Russians said they are active-duty soldiers with the 3rd Guards Separate Special Operations Brigade in Tolyatti. On a video from the interrogation, Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev said they arrived in Ukraine on March 26, 2015 as part of a battalion of 220 troops.
“I, Aleksandrov, Aleksandr Anatolyevich, a citizen of the Russian Federation, am an active-duty Russian military serviceman, rank of sergeant, duty position reconnaissance medic. I am assigned to military unit no. 21208,” he said before the cameras. That video was widely shown on Ukrainian media.
LPR later displayed documents according to which Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev served in the people’s militia of the self-proclaimed republic.
According to official Ukrainian sources and the soldiers’ attorneys, the soldiers were kept in separate, clean rooms, they received timely medical aid, were visited by Russian consulate representatives, and had more than one opportunity to talk to their relatives. Both Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev were operated on in Kiev, they received bone implants–Aleksandrov in the leg, Yerofeyev in the arm. They were kept in the hospital under guard the entire time.
“They were not tortured, and Aleksandrov was able to avoid a leg amputation thanks to a timely operation,” said Sergey Krivenko, a member of the Human Right Council to the President of the Russian Federation.
Krivenko visited the arrested soldiers in Kiev in early June, then made an official request to the Russian MOD in order to ascertain the soldiers’ official status. The answer came from the Chief of the Personnel Directorate of the RF MOD Sergey Bovtsin. It stated that Yerofeyev and Aleksandrove were once Russian military servicemembers. However, “the events associated with their departure from Russia and stay on Ukraine’s territory occurred after they were discharged from service and were not related to their service.”
There were rumors that Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev might be exchanged for Nadezhda Savchenko. Her attorney Nikolay Polozov expressed doubts that she might be exchanged for the two Russians. “Her defense has not been officially notified where she is being kept. The preliminary hearing on her case is scheduled for 30 July. But I doubt she’ll be exchanged for the two Spetsnaz. Because then why have the trial?” the lawyer said. However, the Corrections Service of the Rostov Region officially announced that she arrived late last week. Gazeta.ru sources in the corrections agency claim she is awaiting trial at Novocherkassk.
DPR Refugee and POW Committee Deputy Chair Liliya Rodionova told Gazeta.ru she knew nothing about the exchange.
“Minsk Agreements provide for an exchange of all for all. But Ukraine told us they don’t know how many of our prisoners they have. They have the following practice: they don’t keep track of people and hold them in prison without any documentation. Kharkov SBU has a particular reputation for that, where I had the “good fortune” to spend some time,” said Rodionova.
“As far as the mercenaries or citizens of other countries who fight for Ukraine in this conflict, their exchanges always occur with special conditions, in every specific case the parties always make specific offers concerning such people,” Rodionova added. She also said that the last official prisoner exchange took place in February when Ukraine returned representatives of both DPR and LPR.
Gazeta.ru source in LPR people’s militia said that, as a rule, foreigners are usually exchanged for foreigners held for foreigners held prisoner by Ukraine. “That’s how we exchanged a Polish citizen last August,” the source said.