According to the 1949 Geneva Convention, Ukrainian personnel who were captured on November 25 by the Russian Federation can be considered prisoners of war. Ukraine says 24 servicemen were detained – including two Ukraine’s Security Service counterintelligence officers. Most prisoners are between the ages of 18 and 27 and hail from different regions of Ukraine. Hromadske talked with relatives and colleagues of some of the captured sailors.
On November 26, Russian state media identified three captured Ukrainian servicemen of the boat Berdyansk. According to Russia, they suffered “minor injuries” and were hospitalized in Kerch Hospital 1, where they were received medical treatment and are under watch from Russia’s State Security Service (FSB).
Ukrainian Info Resist news site later identified 22 captured personnel.
Roman Mokriak, 31, is from the Kirovohrad region and was in command of the small armored artillery boat Berdyansk when it was captured.
“He personally was ordered not to shoot and not to succumb to provocations,” says Roman's colleague, who asks not to give his name.
Reports claim Roman served in Crimea on a Ukrainian submarine during Russia’s takeover of the peninsula, but refused to defect.
Roman is “young, energetic, and confident – typical for his age. Stubborn and risk-averse,” according to Oleksandr Honcharov, a fellow naval officer.
Andriy Artemenko, 24, is from the Kirovograd region and was also serving on the Berdyansk boat. His father Anatoliy Artemenko says that he last spoke with his son almost two weeks ago.
“Andriy didn’t say anything, the only thing he said was: ‘dad, watch TV.’ Now I have almost no information. This morning his girlfriend Maryna said that he was seriously wounded and was taken either to Kerch or to Moscow. They gave me a hotline number, I will call and clarify. Right now, everything I know is from TV and the web,” Anatoliy told Hromadske.
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Andriy's girlfriend Maryna Umanets said that she last spoke with him on the evening of November 23: “Before leaving, he said that they would cross this Kerch bridge.”Maryna also said that the only thing she knew about Andriy was that he had a shrapnel wound in the wrist area and he was in a Kerch hospital.
Andriy Eider, 18, is a native of the Ivano-Frankivsk region who also served on the Berdyansk boat. He joined the Ukrainian navy less than a year ago after previously studying in Odesa.
His stepmother Yevhenia told Hromadske that she had last seen her son when he signed a contract with the Ukrainian Navy. Recently they communicated by phone and on Facebook. Yevhenia heard from a Russian journalist from Moscow that her stepson is injured.
“The information is from the Russian media and some information is confirmed. A Russian journalist from Moscow told me that Andriy was hurt. I know he is in Kerch with minor injuries and in stable condition,” Yevhenia says.
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She said she is in contact with Ukrainian military officials.
According to Yevhenia, Andriy told his girlfriend on the evening of November 26 that he is “being operated on, is in the hospital, and that everything is in order,” according to his mother.
Bohdan Nebylitsa, 24, is from Sumy region. According to Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty Crimea website, he dreamed of becoming a sailor when he was a teenager and graduated from the Nakhimov Naval Academy in Sevastopol. After the annexation of Crimea by Russia, he left the peninsula to finish his studies in Odesa and eventually graduated.
He was in command of Nikopol, a small armored artillery boat.
Photo credit: RFE/RL
When Bohdan was asked if he was afraid to lead ship and take on such responsibility, he said: “Responsibility – worthless to an officer who is afraid of being responsible. ”
Vasyl Soroka, 27, comes from the Odesa region. His father Viktor Soroka told Hromadske that the only thing he knows so far is that his son is in the hospital.
“I know the same thing as you – that they are in the hospital, they were operated on. They called me and told me about it. Nothing more is known. We last talked a week ago, he came to visit. He didn’t tell about this mission. Military men just take orders they receive,” he said.
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According to Viktor Soroka, the family constantly keeps in touch with military officials.
“We were told to wait for his return. We are waiting and we believe that everything will be fine,” he added.
The Nikopol boat also included a 20-year-old Vyacheslav Zinchenko from Moldova, 21-year-old Sergey Tsibizov from the Khmelnytsk region, 27-year-old Serhiy Popov from the Donetsk region, 24-year-old Vladyslav Kostishin from the Cherkasy region, 47-year-old Andrey Oprysko from the Lviv region and Ivan Drach.
Serving on the Yany Kapu tugboat: Oleh Melnichuk (23 years old), Mykhailo Vlasyuk (34 years old), Viktor Bezpalchenko (31 years old), Volodymyr Tereshchenko (24 years old), Yevhen Semidotsky.
On board the boat Berdyansk were also Yuri Bezyazychny (28 years old), Bohdan Holovash (22 years old), Denys Hrytsenko (34 years old).
According to Russian media, among the crew members there was also additional personnel, in particular: Volodymyr Lisovoi, Andriy Shevchenko, Volodymyr Varimez, and two counterintelligence officers of the Security Service of Ukraine.
On November 26, Russia’s FSB published a video in which three Ukrainian sailors – Volodymyr Lisovoi, Ivan Drach and Serhiy Tsybizov – allegedly admitted that they crossed the border illegally.
On November 27 a trial of the Ukrainian naval officers took place in annexed Sevastopol. They are charged with illegally crossing the border.