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Head of President’s Office describes meeting between Azovstal defender’s wife and head of Red Cross: "No reaction"

Friday, 2 June 2023, 23:41
Head of President’s Office describes meeting between Azovstal defender’s wife and head of Red Cross: No reaction

Andrii Yermak, Head of the President’s Office, has said that the International Committee of the Red Cross did not change its attitude even after its president had spoken with Ukrainian defenders who had returned from Russian captivity and their loved ones. 

Source: Andrii Yermak in an interview with Dmytro Komarov in the film A Year. Behind the Scenes. The President’s Office

Quote: "You were personally present at one of the [prisoner] swaps, so you saw the state in which our heroes returned... Several times there were people who had lost up to 60 kg there, the minimum  [weight loss - ed.] was 30 kg. They [the Russians - ed.] even used to return them in the evening, thinking that we might not see the state they were in."


Details: Yermak also recalled the exchange of Azovstal defenders for Viktor Medvedchuk, a former Ukrainian politician with ties to Russia who has been convicted of treason. He said "a lot went wrong" that day and the exchange itself was put at risk. In particular, the swap, which took place in Ukraine, was delayed for almost five hours.

The exchange in Türkiye only went ahead when the Ukrainian side had made sure that the Russians had brought the Ukrainian commanders who defended Mariupol.

He stressed that "all for all" prisoner swaps are a priority for Ukraine, but now the reality is that it will be very difficult to do this.


Yermak also expressed disappointment with the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Quote: "They [representatives of the ICRC - ed.] have never got to any of our prisoners in any way. They tell us they can't get in because the Russians don't give permission.

I didn’t mince my words. I asked, ‘And if this was the Second World War, and you had asked Hitler, saying that you could not get to Auschwitz, how would you answer me?’ They lowered their eyes, fell silent, and then started talking about mandates and so on...

The President of the Red Cross Committee, she sat here and I told her, ‘You have an opportunity to show that you are an organisation that does what it was set up to do.’ I did not warn her, and during the meeting I said: ‘Now our meeting will change and I want three young ladies to join in.’ And through these doors, without warning, came Mariana Mamonova, Serhii ‘Volyna’ Volynskyi’s sister, and Denys ‘Redis’ Prokopenko’s wife [both men were Azovstal defenders - ed.]. They came in. They sat down here. And they talked for an hour about the horrors of captivity without mincing their words. The ICRC president sat with the representative of Ukraine looking like death warmed up... It was ‘truth therapy’."

Meeting President of the ICRC Mirjana Spoljaric Egger

Details: According to Yermak, there was no change in the Red Cross’s attitude after this meeting. He says a modern effective international organisation needs to be established to deal with this instead of the Red Cross.

He stated that Olenivka and other locations where the Russians hold Ukrainian prisoners are concentration camps.

Yermak asserted that ICRC representatives refused to go to the contact line after being given a guarantee by the Ukrainian side to get to Olenivka. He added that the ICRC was unwilling to do this, citing the lack of mandate.

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