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Ukraine’s 2 Russian POWs back Kiev’s claims, say they’re still Russian soldiers on active duty

Kiev says Evgeny Erofeev and Alexander Alexandrov are Russian military intelligence agents captured in eastern Ukraine. Moscow says they’re former soldiers. In a new interview, Erofeev and Alexandrov insist that they were never dismissed from Russia’s armed forces. Novaya Gazeta reporter Pavel Kanygin managed to visit them at a hospital in Ukraine, where they’re now in custody.

Alexandrov claims to be a soldier on active duty in the Russian military. He says he was in eastern Ukraine on orders from his superiors. Deployed to the Donbas “on holiday,” Alexandrov says he was promised double his usual pay, though he’s yet to see a kopeck of this money. He also expressed confusion about his wife telling a Russian TV station that he’d been dismissed from the military, saying she knows this isn’t the case. He has been unable to contact her from custody in Ukraine, he says.

Erofeev told Novaya Gazeta that he and his unit were stationed near Luhansk to monitor the conflict and maintain the ceasefire between the separatists and Ukrainian troops. The mission was carried out in secret, without Kiev’s knowledge. Erofeev says Ukrainian soldiers discovered his unit, leading to a firefight that resulted in his capture, along with Alexandrov’s.

Both Erofeev and Alexandrov say no one from the Russian embassy has visited them in captivity or showed the slightest interest in their fate. Their conversation with Kanygin was filmed and is now available on Novaya Gazeta’s website.

“Everybody has come by to see us. Representatives from the UN, the Red Cross, the OSCE—everyone asked how I’m doing. Am I dead or alive? Am I receiving proper care? Everyone has come except representatives from the [Russian] embassy. I understand that they’ve disavowed my military status. To hell with it. But I’m still a citizen of my own country. I’d like to see some kind of representative,” Erofeev said.

Novaya Gazeta

Ukrainian authorities first announced the capture of Erofeev and Alexandrov on May 16.

Russian defense officials have acknowledged the detention of two Russian citizens, but they say Erofeev and Alexandrov quit the army and were only civilians at the time of their capture.

On May 20, state-controlled Russian television station Rossiya 1 aired an interview with Alexandrov’s wife, where she claimed not to know about her husband’s trip to Ukraine. She also told reporters that her husband left the Russian armed forces in December 2014.

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