LVIV, Ukraine: More than 200 Ukrainian prisoners of war returned to their homeland in January, wrapped in the Ukraine flag and belting out their national anthem.

While Kyiv and Moscow carry out periodic prisoner swaps, January’s was the largest exchange since Russia’s invasion.

The Ukrainians were bruised, battered but not broken.

Among them was 35-year-old medic Ostap Reshetnik, who has at his fingertips the dates and details surrounding his agonising experience.

“I was in captivity for 632 days. They held us from 20 April, 2022, to 31 Jan, 2023, in the Ryazan region in the town of Ryazhsk. Then, on 1 Feb, 2023, we were transported to the Republic of Mordovia,” he told CNA.

Every day as a prisoner of war was long, painful and silent.

“We couldn’t talk in the cell. We had a wake-up call at 6am and lights out at 10pm. From 6am to 10pm, we stood for 16 hours, not moving, hands behind our backs, head lowered,” he recounted.

“If you moved or drank water without permission, they might open the cell door. They would either take out the person who did it or the whole cell.”


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