Military taken prisoner by the Russians: I hoped all along that I would return to my family

AGERPRES special correspondent Cristian Lupascu reports: A Ukrainian serviceman from the Chernivtsi region who was taken prisoner by the Russian army has returned home after almost a year and nine months of hell. Ruslan Mishna fell into Russian hands on 17 May 2022, being one of the last platoons of Ukrainian soldiers to resist the Russian Federation army in the Azovstal battles.

When the metallurgical plant in Mariupol was captured by Russian military forces, Ruslan Mishna and hundreds of his fellow soldiers, who were sheltering in tunnels and underground bunkers, became a symbol of Ukraine’s resistance to the enemy from the East.

The battle for Azovstal lasted 80 days, during which time the air strikes on the plant were as devastating as the fighting in the basement of the industrial colossus in the port city of Mariupol.

At the end of the fighting, Ruslan, along with his fellow soldiers, became a prisoner of war. The 41-year-old was picked up by Russian troops and taken to Olenivka in the Donetsk region, the place of detention for all prisoners of Azovstal. Hungry and beaten, his morale low and his strength drained, he was determined to resist. He was then transferred to a prison in Lugansk, where he remained until this month.

On 8 February 2024, Ruslan, who is the father of a 17-year-old teenager, was part of a 100-prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia, and was given the chance to return home after a year and almost nine months.

“I was hoping to be released from prison sooner or later. We were told: ‘Guys, endure a little!’ You will be released anyway. I hoped all along that I would return to my wife, to my beloved wife, and to my daughter whom I love very much, to my family,” the Ukrainian soldier told AGERPRES.