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Russia frees captive medic who filmed Mariupol horror

Tallinn – A famous Ukrainian paramedic whose footage was smuggled out of the besieged city of Mariupol by an Associated Press team was freed by Russian forces on Friday, three months after she was captured on the city’s streets.

Julia Paievska is known as Taira in Ukraine, a nickname she chose in the video game World of Warcraft. Using a body camera, she recorded 256 gigabytes of her team’s efforts to save the wounded, including both Russian and Ukrainian soldiers, for two weeks.

She transferred the clips to an Associated Press team who last international journalists in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, one of them fled embedded in a tampon on March 15. Taira and a colleague were captured by Russian forces on March 16, the same day a Russian airstrike hit a downtown theater and reportedly killed around 600 people an investigation by the Associated Press.

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“It was such a great relief. It sounds like such ordinary words and I don’t even know what to say,” her husband, Vadim Puzanov, told The Associated Press late Friday, taking a deep breath to contain his emotions. Puzanov said he spoke to Taira on the phone, who was on her way to a Kiev hospital and feared for her health.

At first the family remained silent, hoping that the negotiations would take their course. But The Associated Press spoke to him before releasing the smuggled videos, which ultimately had millions of viewers around the world, including on some of the biggest networks in Europe and the United States. Puzanov expressed his gratitude for the coverage showing Taira trying to save both Russian soldiers and Ukrainian civilians.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced the release of Taira in a national speech.

“I am grateful to everyone who worked towards this result. Taira is already at home. We will continue to work to free everyone,” he said.

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Hundreds of prominent Ukrainians have been kidnapped or captured, including local officials, journalists, activists and human rights defenders.

Russia portrayed Taira as an operative in the nationalist Azov Battalion, in line with Moscow’s narrative that it was trying to “denazify” Ukraine. But the AP found no such evidence, and friends and colleagues said it had no ties to Azov, which put up a last-ditch stand at a Mariupol steel mill before hundreds of its fighters were captured or killed.

The footage itself is a visceral testament to their efforts to save the wounded on both sides.

A clip taken on March 10 shows two Russian soldiers being roughly pulled from an ambulance by a Ukrainian soldier. One is in a wheelchair. The other is on his knees, hands tied behind his back, with an apparent leg injury. Their eyes are covered with winter hats and they wear white armbands.

A Ukrainian soldier insults one of them. “Calm down, calm down,” Taira tells him.

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A woman asks her: “Will you treat the Russians?”

“They won’t be so kind to us,” she replies. “But I couldn’t help it. They are prisoners of war.”

Taira was a member of Ukraine Invictus games for military veterans, where she was to compete in archery and swimming. Invictus said she was a military medic from 2018 to 2020 but has since been demobilized.

She received the body camera in 2021 to film for a Netflix documentary series about inspirational characters produced by Britain’s Prince Harry, who founded the Invictus Games. But when Russian troops invaded, she used it to shoot scenes with injured civilians and soldiers instead.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/world/2022/06/17/russia-frees-captive-medic-who-filmed-mariupols-horror/ Russia frees captive medic who filmed Mariupol horror

Sarah Y. Kim

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