26 September, 2023

Defenders of Mariupol city. Stories by the invincible ones: Getting married remotely, captivity and the unknown

Defenders of Mariupol city. Stories by the invincible ones: Getting married remotely, captivity and the unknown

I am Maria.

I am the wife to one of the invincible ones.

And, I am the one who still believes that Serhiy Alekseyevich, one of the Azov regiment soldiers, one of Mariupol defenders, a friendly and not an indifferent person, will come back to Ukraine. He has always fought for justice and has always realized that we have to fight in every possible way for a quiet future without wars.

Before Russia broke out its full-scale invasion, we had been living together for 4 years. We became a married couple only when Serhiy was already in Mariupol, on April 27, 2022. A week before we got married, he told me he wanted to marry me remotely, if I agreed to that. Surely, I did agree, since we had been planning to do it before that. This event greatly encouraged me then, giving me strength, hope and believe in his comeback from Mariupol to the happy and strong family of ours. And well, it gave him, I believe, the power to fight and believe that everything would be alright anyway.

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Casualty and capture

During the urban warfare in Mariupol, Serhiy was not writing to me anything of the situation in the city, only asking me ordinary questions of my job and well-being. He also asked me to hold on and hope for the best. I waited for a reply from Serhiy every single day, trying to support him as much as it was then possible.

Serhiy did not even tell me of his wounding that he got during the city fighting in Mariupol. I learnt about it only when he was taken captive, from his military unit. He was wounded again due to the terror attack in Olenivka. In spite of his wounds, he is still kept captive, although Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War clearly states that wounded soldiers are to be returned to their native country unconditionally and in any numbers. Besides, I was reassured in the Coordination Headquarters on treatment of prisoners of war at the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, that wounded are at priority for exchange. Yet, fighting for his life and freedom is ongoing.

On May 16, I read the news of the first soldiers exiting from the AzovStal plant. I could not believe it for a long time, if it was really true. I thought it was really evacuation, as the Ukrainian authorities were explaining on that evening.

Wait a bit. We are working on it

I didn’t know then if Serhiy was among those soldiers exiting from the AzovStal, for he had written to me on May 13, saying nothing of his possible being taken captive. Only briefly saying: “Don’t worry if I am out of reach for a long time”.

And already on May 19, I was watching Russian video clips featuring our upstanders coming out from the AzovStal plant and then I saw my beloved one. It was a video from Colony #120 in the settlement of Olenivka.

In that video, there were also some representatives of the International Red Cross but, as it was known later, they did not speak to the captives and they only checked the imprisonment conditions very shortly and left.

I addressed all the stately bodies for a few times regarding my husband. Those were submissions to the National Informational Bureau, Coordination Headquarters on treatment of prisoners of war, National Police, Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Security Service of Ukraine. I also addressed the International Red Cross and the UNO task group. Their replies were always the same: “Wait a bit, we’re working on the issue”. He was not confirmed by the ICRC and Russia for almost 16 months in captivity. As the Red Cross representatives state, they did not attend the meeting when our first soldiers exited from the AzovStal plant.

The Terrorist Outrage

On the night of July 29, 2022 Russians conducted a cynical and violent terroristic act in Colony No 120 of the temporarily occupied Olenivka, where the last defenders of Mariupol city had been kept. Russians did a targeted mass assassination and mutilating of the prisoners of war. As a result of their terrorist act, over 50 militaries were murdered and over 100 got wounded.

Still we, relatives of Ukraine’s defenders, injured due to the act of terror, do not know exactly the names of those sleeping in the barracks on that night, number of people killed and the number of wounded. We have been trying to pick up the information with our own efforts. Nothing is known of many people’s destiny after the act of terror. Russia did not submit any lists of injured and all present in the barracks to our state bodies. And Ukrainian stately bodies cannot gather this information by themselves.

My husband was injured due to the act of terror – and this is proved by the lists of injuries as of July 30, 2022, as published by the Ministry of Defense of Russia. And in a few days I saw videos featuring my husband after the act of terror. He was then in hospital, and Russian propaganda journalist were asking him what had happened or what he had then heard. Serhiy was telling them of some two explosions: he did not pay attention to the first one and then everything was burning after the second one, and the captives started to get out from the burning barracks into the open air. Besides, a close friend of my husband’s, set free from the imprisonment later, also mentioned Serhiy’s wounding, saying that his both legs were hurt. By the latest records, he was taken to a Russian colony but yet I don’t know where he is.

And the situation with the wounded is really critical. Various representatives from the authorities are telling us that there are other wounded kept captive, having serious wounds than those exploded in Olenivka. But how can they have such detailed information on the nature of the wounds due to the act of terror, when there are even no complete records of all the people located there at that time?

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We have to be aware of the danger yet threatening them. We have to do our best to return from the imprisonment our people as soon as possible. That was a carefully planned act of terror, which is further proved with the following data we found in the open sources: 193 prisoners of war on July 27, 2022 were taken to the airshed located in the industrial area of the Colony, away from other barracks where prisoners of war were kept. They hurriedly refurbished it into a living barrack, providing beds.

At about 11 to 11-30 pm the act of terror was performed. The prisoners heard a few explosions, and everything started burning after the last one. The wounded were not allowed to get medication, neither the colony supervisors provided it themselves, due to which yet more people died, waiting in vain for medical support. They had to wait about 5 hours to be taken to hospital.

The wounded ones were transported in overcrowded lorries along bumpy rough roads, which brought yet more suffer them. The prisoners with light wounds were put into the so-called disciplinary cells for a month. They were actually isolated from communicating with other prisoners within the colony. Among the wounded, there were some who had it as a second or even a third injury. Then there were others wounded yet during the defense of Mariupol. So they have been staying imprisoned as casualties for over a year with no medical support.

Letters with no reply

Russia violates all standards of the international humanitarian legislation. According to the regulations of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, prisoners have a right to send and receive letters. Alas, it is not so. I wrote a letter to my husband in January this year but I am sure he did not get it. And I know of not a single case when relatives of Azov regiment prisoners got any reply.

Besides, militaries being kept captives must be confirmed. Yet, Russia does not confirm all of them. Another violation from them is keeping captives rather closed to the area where operations are conducted. Murders throughout the imprisonment, disabling, loss of weight, psychological and physical torturing – these are all violations.

And even after the execution in Olenivka, Russia did not receive any punishment. The international reaction was not sufficient, and on January 5, 2023 the mission from the UNO on investigating murder occurrences among captives of war was deactivated due to the impossibility to reach the scene of crime and absence of safety warranties. And Russia is continuing to torture people in captivity.

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Defenders of Mariupol are true warriors, desperately committed to defending the city of Mariupol in total entrapment for 86 days. Ever since the first day of the full-scale invasion by the Russian Federation, Mariupol’s defenders proved to the whole world their incredible courage, will power and their fighting spirit for freedom. Due to the city defense, Ukraine was able to receive arms from the partner countries, regroup troops in other direction and consequently regain the Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia. They fought the enemy’s overwhelming forces, having not enough ammunition, food, water and sleep. During the period from May 16 to May 20, Mariupol’s defenders laid down their weapon at the AzovStal plant and exited to captivity by the order from the senior Ukraine’s authorities.


Defenders of Mariupol. Stories of the Invincible Ones – is a common project by Infopost.media a and  Olenivka Families Community, a community uniting the captives’ families, the injured and killed during the act of terror in Olenivka on the night of July 28 to 29th, 2022.

“Olenivka Families Community” was launched in January 2023, after the UNO General Secretary dismissed the mission on investigating murder occurrences among captives of war in Olenivka. The community enrolls over 100 people. A delegation from the Olenivka Families have already visited Geneva, meeting representatives from the UNO and International Red Cross at their headquarters.

Currently we would like to receive more communication with foreign journalists, performing live for audiences abroad, since the subject of the act of terror in Olenivka is only known a little abroad. We are eager to share our witness with journalistic investigations, human rights advocacies and to have cooperation with OSINT-communities. We want to call to account the guilty ones in the international field.

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