May 21, 2024
Yuliia “Taira” Paievska is a Ukrainian medic who spent the initial part of the war in her home country in the besieged city of Mariupol before she was captured and held as a prisoner of war for months.

Yuliia “Taira” Paievska is a Ukrainian medic who spent the initial part of the war in her home country in the besieged city of Mariupol before she was captured and held as a prisoner of war for months.

During the beginning of the war, she recorded 256 gigabytes of videos via a body camera that showed her team’s efforts in saving lives. Paievska then provided the clips to Associated Press journalists, who were the last international reporters in the city of Mariupol, one of whom sneaked the video out in a tampon, according to a report from the outlet back in May. She was captured by Russian forces a day after giving the footage to the journalists and was held for three months.

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Paievska appeared in front of the Helsinki Commission, also known as the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, on Thursday to detail her experience in Russian captivity in front of a group of Senate and House legislators.

“My tormentors advised me to commit suicide. I said, ‘No, I will see what happens tomorrow.’ I wondered how far they can go in the madness and anger. And then one day, when it seemed there was no hope, someone looked into the peephole and called my name,” she explained. “This is how my journey to freedom begins.”

“A fighter who was beaten for three hours and then thrown into the basement like a sack, and only a day later someone come to him. A dead child in [its] mother’s arms. A 7-year-old boy with bullet wounds, dying in my lap because I cannot work off this in this case. Prisoners in cells screaming for weeks and dying from the torture result without any medical help,” Paievska kept going. “The only thing they feel before death is abuse and additional beatings.”

Back in the spring, Russians accused her of working for the Azov Battalion, a Ukrainian military group that Russia has claimed are Nazis, which has been a major talking point from Russian officials attempting to justify the war in Ukraine.

More than 5,800 Ukrainian civilians have been killed, while another roughly 8,400 people have been wounded in the war, the U.N. Office of the High Commission said in an update earlier this week. Every death toll update from the agency includes the caveat that they believe the actual death toll figures are “considerably higher” because they have difficulties in locations where there is intense fighting.

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Russia’s military has been accused of war crimes, specifically over the indiscriminate and supposed targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure, while Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe investigators concluded in July that Russian soldiers had “extensively violated” international human rights laws.

“Some of the most serious violations include targeted killing of civilians, including journalists, human rights defenders, or local mayors; unlawful detentions, abductions and enforced disappearances of such persons; large-scale deportations of Ukrainian civilians to Russia; various forms of mistreatment, including torture, inflicted on detained civilians and prisoners of war; the failure to respect fair trial guarantees; and the imposition of the death penalty,” the report found.

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