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‘I’m a military man, a simple man’ A contract soldier captured by Ukrainian troops and traded back to Russia says he plans to return to the frontlines


Twenty-four-year-old Dmitry Paramoshkin signed a contract with the Russian army in 2020, near the end of his conscription term. “It just sort of happened that way. They said there’d be exercises, [parachute] jumps, we’d ride around, and do that kind of stuff. So, I went ahead and did it,” he told the news website Fontanka. On February 25, 2022, Dmitry and his fellow soldiers were told that they were headed to Crimea to join planned military drills. When they arrived, they were given new orders: go to Kherson and then Mykolaiv. Paramoshkin was later captured after invading Ukraine, held prisoner for several weeks, and returned home to St. Petersburg in a prisoner exchange. Now he says he plans to return to the fight, confident that Russia will prevail.

On the way to Mykolaiv, Paramoshkin’s convoy came under Ukrainian artillery bombardment and dispersed in multiple directions. Dmitry ended up in a group of about 30 soldiers. He told Fontanka that the Ukrainians continued to fire at them, allegedly using cluster munitions:

“They were firing on us, really shelling us. And what they were firing, as the Ukrainians say, is something you’re not allowed to shoot at all, according to the Geneva Convention. They were using ‘Tochkas’ [the OTR-21 Tochka, or SS-21 Scarab, is a tactical ballistic missile] and these… I forget [what they’re called], with the prohibited ammunition. There wasn’t any phosphorus, but I did see the ones that scatter like petals, tearing people to shreds.”

Paramoshkin and the group of Russian soldiers spent that night near a tree line. When he awoke, he found himself alone. “They left me there. Looks like they forgot,” he said. After three days, when he left the forest in search of food, Ukrainian troops captured him almost immediately. He was transferred to Nova Odesa and then Vinnytsia, where he was placed in a pretrial detention center.

Dmitry says he was regularly beaten while in captivity. “They hit me in the legs, kidneys, and stomach, of course. They tried not to hit me in the face,” he told Fontanka, recalling that guards demanded that he sing the Ukrainian national anthem, which he didn’t know, before he could have any food. He later shared a cell with several prisoners from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic who actually knew the anthem’s lyrics.

Paramoshkin says the guards in Vinnytsia also beat him and the other prisoners after seeing footage on television showing things like Russian attacks on Ukrainian cities:

“Let’s say it was Bucha: 400 people, people raped — something like that. And [the guards] would come over [to the prisoners] and say, ‘Did you see the news?’ ‘Yeah, I saw.’ And then they’d start beating you. ‘These are your Nazis, your liberators — whom are you liberating?’ It was the same for Mariupol. The same for Kharkiv. The bombing would start, they’d show it on the news, and then [the guards] would come back. ‘Did you see?’ ‘I saw.’ And then you’d get it.”

When asked what he thinks of the events in Bucha, Paramoshkin told Fontanka: “Our guys aren’t capable of that stuff. I think it was staged. Like most of their news, it’s just staged.”

While in captivity, Dmitry became one of more than 100 Russian prisoners to appear in an interview with Ukrainian blogger Volodymyr Zolkin. Dmitry says the video was choreographed and all his answers were scripted in advance. The Russian soldier says only two parts of the interview weren’t staged: when he describes the circumstances of his capture and when he speaks to his mother during a recorded telephone call arranged for the interview.

Dmitry Paramoshkin spent about six weeks in captivity. On April 19, the Ukrainian military transported him and other prisoners to detention facility closer to the boundary with the Zaporizhzhia region, where they were soon exchanged for Ukrainian POWs:

“In the morning, they loaded us onto a bus, threw bags over our heads, and brought us to some bridge that had been blown up. On one side there were two buses of Ukrainians and there were 46 of us. On the other side, there were three Kamaz trucks with our Russian guys, some Lynx armored vehicles, and Ukrainian prisoners. The bridge there was broken, there was a stream, and stones were scattered. We passed under the bridge and came up, and then the Ukrainian [prisoners] came out. Then we went in both directions: they got on the buses, and we boarded the Kamaz trucks. And then we got out of there. You could say it was like in the movies.”

Paramoshkin told Fontanka that he plans to return to the war. “I’m a military man, a simple man. My guys are still over there. [I need] to find out how they’re doing. Plus, we’re making progress now. Everything is going well, and our tactics have adapted. Everything [before] happened because we were unprepared. They didn’t tell us that we were going to Ukraine. They didn’t prepare us for that,” he explained.

Dmitry’s mother calls her son a patriot who defends his homeland. She refuses to acknowledge that Russia attacked Ukraine:

“I have no right to judge whether it’s wrong or right. Who am I, after all? But I still think Russia isn’t the aggressor. I think they’re doing everything right. And what you need to do with these little Nazis… Well, even Dima says these little Nazis need to be… removed.”

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