Ukrainian police officer freed from POW camp reveals injuries from beatings

Ukrainian policewoman has shared details of her injuries after being held as a captive by Russian forces.
The 24-year-old was held as a prisoner for two years (Picture: east2west / @boris_beissner)

A Ukrainian police officer who spent two years in Russian prisoner-of-war camps has revealed how she was physically and psychologically tortured by her captors.

Mariana Checheliuk, 24, revealed photos of her legs covered in bruises which she says were inflicted by jailors in regular beatings.

She says she also suffered chronic bronchitis, back problems, kidney failures, weight loss, hair loss and long periods where her menstrual cycle stopped.

In a poem written for her mother while in detention, Ms Checheliuk said the ‘pain and agony’ were so bad she wanted to ‘wanted to end my life’.

Liberated Maryana Chechelyuk calls for exchange of her boyfriend Vladislav Andrianov, 28, a commander in the Ukrainian Azov regiment, who was in the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol when the defenders surrendered to Putin's forces. Andrianov was sentenced to 25 years in jail in a mock trial in the Putin-controlled Donetsk People's Republic for 'killing a civilian'. The writing reads: 'For those who say women are not beaten'.
The bruises on Mariana’s legs (Picture: Maryana Chechelyuk/east2west new)
Liberated Maryana Chechelyuk calls for exchange of her boyfriend Vladislav Andrianov, 28, a commander in the Ukrainian Azov regiment, who was in the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol when the defenders surrendered to Putin's forces. Andrianov was sentenced to 25 years in jail in a mock trial in the Putin-controlled Donetsk People's Republic for 'killing a civilian'. The writing reads: 'Bruises inflicted by Russians heal faster in the Motherland'.
She said she also suffered chronic bronchitis, back problems, and kidney failures among other injuries whilst being held by Russian troops (Picture: Maryana Chechelyuk/east2west new)

She spoke of how she ‘trembled with fear’ at the ‘horror’ she experienced and witnessed and how ‘every scream and knock made my own name from my head disappear’.

The 24-year-old read the poem while travelling by train to be reunited with her mother.

Ms Checheliuk is among 75 prisoners of war who returned to Ukrainian-held territory on Friday morning following a swap.

She was captured in the early stages of Putin’s invasion when Russian soldiers stormed the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, where she and her younger sister Alina sought refuge.

The city, in southeastern Ukraine, has remained mostly under the grip of Kremlin forces since the siege in March 2022.

The 24-year-old was moved between Russian facilities in Donetsk, Yelenovka, Taganrog, Kamyshin and Mariupol.

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When a green corridor was opened for civilians, Mariana was denied passage due to her role in the National Police of Ukraine.

She had only been working in the police service for about a year before Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Her father Vitalii told Mezha media outlet that after graduating the Kharkiv Police Academy his daughter began working as an investigator in Zhovtnevyi District of the city.

He said: ‘Mariana was a zoo volunteer, she loved dogs very much, before and after work she cooked dog food and fed street animals.

‘My younger daughter, Alina, was in the ninth grade when the invasion began.’

22-year-old Mariana Checheliuk, a policewoman, was taken captive by Russia at Azovstal. We need to make her case known & demand her safe return! Her family is pleading for help - spread the word!
Mariana was taken captive by Russian forces at Azovstal
Boris Alexander Beissner @boris_beissner ????Beaten and starved for more than two years: 24-year-old National Police investigator from Mariupol Mariana Chechelyuk was returned today! According to her mother, Mariana experienced a lot of torture in captivity - she was starved, beaten and otherwise mistreated. Due to the conditions of detention, the girl's health deteriorated: respiratory diseases and sore throat developed into a chronic form of bronchitis. Mariana lost a lot of weight, her immune system weakened, her hair fell out, and her periods stopped,
Mariana says she was subjected to physical and mental torture

Her mother Nataliia told the ZMINA news outlet that Russian forces even tried to get her to defect.

‘They were trying to lure her to the Russian side with both sweet promises of a big salary and intimidation. But she refused,’ she said.

During her two years of captivity, Mariana was only allowed to talk to her family once, and sent just a handful of letters detailing her deteriorating health.  

In footage of her reciting the poem she wrote during detention, she says: ‘I long to see you mother, to tell you how it was for me there.

‘How I yearned for your eyes, how I wanted to end my life. How I endured all the pain and agony, how I trembled with fear.

‘How every scream and knock made my own name from my head disappear. How I asked for His help, and He gave me strength every day.

Ukrainian police officer and prisoner of war (POW) Mariana reacts after a swap, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, at an unknown location in Ukraine May 31, 2024. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
Mariana tearing up moments after the swap (Picture: REUTERS)

‘How I was getting ready to leave, but it was not always me. No words do I have to convey all the pain. No faith do I have that everything will end. No hope that Ukraine will be saved.

‘Maybe I will come back to you mother. No! I will come back, hear? I will come at dawn in the morning. In heart, you will feel me near. I will shout that forever I am free. That I missed my father and home. Mom, I will always remember. This horror is called Russian captivity.’

Marina appeared frail and subdued as she got off the bus in Sumi. The Ukrainian PoWs included four civilians.

As they disembarked, they shouted joyfully and called their families to tell them they were home.

Some knelt and kissed the ground while many wrapped themselves in yellow-blue flags and hugged one another, breaking into tears. Many appeared emaciated and poorly dressed.

The exchange of 150 PoWs in total was the fourth swap this year and the 52nd since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

With the exchanges, including Friday’s, Ukraine has gotten back a total of 3,210 members of the Ukrainian military and civilians.

Neither Ukraine nor Russia have disclosed how many PoWs there are in all. A UN report says the majority of Ukrainian PoWs are subject to routine medical neglect, severe and systematic mistreatment, and even torture while in detention.

There have also been isolated reports of abuse of Russian soldiers, mostly during capture or transit to internment sites.

At least one-third of Ukrainians who returned home suffered ‘injuries, severe illnesses, and disabilities’.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

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