Captured by Kyiv. POWs from the Kola Peninsula
Prisoners of war from Murmansk. Screenshot of video by Telegram channel Ne Zhdi Menya iz Ukraini (Do not wait me back from Ukraine)
The 33 year old commander had been in Ukraine only a week when he was taken prisoner. The officer led a unit of 30 men and had been ordered to take a hilltop in a local village from where the position of Ukrainian artillery could be determined. The mission was completed and his platoon even took ten Ukrainian servicemen prisoners, Stanislav Trutnev says in an interview with Lviv Media. But Trutnev and his men did not manage to hold their position as a group of Ukrainian special forces attacked. All of the Russians were forced to retreat, and in the battle lieutenant Trutnev was seriously wounded.
On the 10th of July he was captured by the Ukrainians and taken prisoner of war.
He is one of many. It is not clear how many POWs there are on the Ukrainian and Russian sides. But the number is in the thousands.
The UN has been granted access to the Ukrainian camps that are located across the country and the International Red Cross is frequently making visits. Also Ukrainian and international media have been allowed to visit.
Stanislav Trutnev served on a 12-year contract with the Russian Armed Forces. He has battle experiences from Syria and is normally based in unit 69068 in Vidyaevo, the Northern Fleet town on the Kola Peninsula. He belongs to the elite forces of the Russian Navy and is trained in underwater sabotage operations.
The soldier argues that he was only fulfilling his duties in Ukraine.
“Over so many years they have taught us one thing: you are soldier, a warrior and you must live like a warrior. You do not think about politics, economy and so on,” he says in the interview.
But he underlines that he and his fellow professional soldiers strictly follow international rules of war and that atrocities and war crimes were committed by non-professionals.
He also explains that he does not feel any hate or irritation against the Ukrainian soldiers that took him prisoner. “On the contrary, I felt a sense of admiration. As a soldier, it was an interesting experience. Because it was a meeting between soldiers,” he says and expresses gratitude that he has been granted “this extra chance in life.”
Forces from the Kola Peninsula took an active part in the full-scale onslaught on Ukraine the 24th of February 2022. Among the attacking servicemen were Aleksandr Babykin and Aleksandr Ivanov. Both of them served in the 200th Motorized Infantry Brigade in Pechenga, the base located only few kilometers from the border to Norway and Finland.
As their column of trucks and armored vehicles were attacked by the Ukrainians, the two men fled, but were soon taken prisoners.
Babykin and Ivanov were trained in handling Grad missile batteries. They are from the towns of Mezhurechie and Olenegorsk, but before the start of the war resided in Pechenga and nearby Luostary.
A video recorded shortly after his detention by Ukrainian troops, show Babykin blindfolded and with a high level of stress describing his entry into Ukraine and the mission of his unit.
Later, the 28-year old Babykin in another video warns fellow countrymen from joining the war
“Everything that your commanders say is a lie. Here you are coming as a terrorist, you will eliminate peaceful populations, women, children, old people. Our artillery works not on the enemy, not on military targets, but on infrastructure of towns, eliminating people. We are not soldiers, we are terrorists,” he says to camera.
Both Babykin and Ivanov were soon charged and sentenced to 11,5 years in jail in Ukraine for war crimes, Severreal.org informs.
Ukrainian forces have also recorded several videos showing soldiers from the Russian north being taken prisoner. In one of them, four men from Murmansk and Arkhangelsk are taken out of a Ukrainian armored vehicle and laid down on the ground. Their names are not known. In another video, six men from the 200th Motorized Rifle Brigade are seen taken prisoners.
Most of the servicemen from the Kola Peninsula sent to Ukraine belong the the 200th Motorized Rifle Brigade, the 61st Naval Infantry Brigade and the 80th Motorized Rifle Brigade.
Artyem Brichikov served in the latter brigade. On the 25th of February 2022 he and his fellow servicemen entered Ukraine from the Russian Belgorod region. He was wounded in battle near Kherson and abandoned by his unit. He was ultimately found by Ukrainian soldiers and taken to hospital.
32-year old Brichkov had the rank of sergeant and served on a contract for eight years. He originally comes from the region of Volgoda but lived in Alakurtti, near the border to Finland, where he served in the 80th Motorized Rifle Brigade, also called Russia’s Arctic Brigade.
In an interview with Ukrainian YouTuber and activist Volodymyr Zolkin, he tells about his troops and their entry into Ukraine. We were told we would fight nazis, he says.
Among Russian northerner fighting in Ukraine has also been a significant number of mercenaries from the Wagner Group. Oleg Pyatykh was recruited by Wagner when serving a 11 years term in prison colony No 16 in Murmashi. He had five years left of his term for illegal drug use when the men from Wagner showed up in the prison in early November 2022.
About 100 of the 400 local inmates agreed to sign up for service, he recalls in an interview. They were all promised amnesty after six months and a salary of up to 200,000 rubles per month.
Pyatykh was stormtrooper equipped with a machine gun AK-47 and was on the 23rd of December 2022 captured in a trench near Bakhmut.
He says he had just arrived to the frontline and that he had not yet engaged in real battle.
“I was only fighting for my freedom,” he says in the interview with Lviv Media. “I had no other choice. If I had not gone there, I would have spent the rest of my life in the colony.”
By the time of publishing this article it is not clear whether Oleg Pyatykh and the other Russian POWs described in this article are still in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman, Dmytro Lubinets, in August this year said that 2,598 Ukrainians have been returned over 48 prisoner exchanges since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion. The number of Russians is not known but could be approximately similar.
As the war rages on, POWs will continue to be locked up in both Ukraine and Russia. Lieutenant Stanislav Trutnev is not sure if he will ever make it back home.
“It is a question will we ever return,” he says, and explains that several of the prisoners have been waiting for a swop for more than a year. “Some have simply been taken off the lists. Some say that I have been taken off the lists,” he explains.
He does not want to say whether he will go back to fight if he is exchanged. “Honestly I would like to spend time with my 4-year old son,” he says. “When I was lying there almost dying, all I could think of was him. And all the things that I have not learnt him.”