The captive doctor’s bodycam shows Mariupol’s first-hand fear

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Kharkiv, Ukraine – A well-known Ukrainian physician recorded his time in Mariupol on a data card larger than a thumbnail, smuggled into the world in a tampon. Now, he is in Russian hands, and Mariupol himself is on the verge of collapse.

Yulia Payevskaya, who went to Tyra as a doctor, used a body camera to record 256 gigabytes of footage in her team’s frantic effort to bring people back from the brink of death for two weeks. He received depressing clips from an Associated Press team of the last international journalists in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol while leaving for a rare humanitarian convoy.

The next day, March 16, Russian troops captured Tayra and her driver, one of the many forcible disappearances in Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine. Russia has portrayed Tyra as working for the nationalist Azov Battalion, in line with Moscow’s description that it is trying to “prove” Ukraine. But the AP found no such evidence, and friends and colleagues said it had nothing to do with Azov.

The military hospital he led to evacuate the wounded is not affiliated with Azov. And in the video he recorded, they were trying to rescue wounded Russian soldiers along with Ukrainian civilians.

A March 10 clip shows two Russian soldiers being taken away by an Ukrainian soldier from an ambulance. In a wheelchair. The other is on his knees, hands tied behind his back, legs clearly injured.

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

A woman asked him, “Are you going to treat the Russians?”

“They will not be kind to us,” he replies. “But I could not do otherwise. They are prisoners of war. “

Taira, 53, is now being held captive by Russians, as well as hundreds of local officials, journalists and other prominent Ukrainians. The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has recorded 204 cases of enforced disappearances, saying some victims may have been tortured and five were later found dead.

The Russians have targeted physicians and hospitals, although the Geneva Conventions separate military and civilian physicians for protection “in all circumstances.” Russian troops charged a woman with being a military doctor in a convoy from Mariupol on May 8 and forced her to choose between letting her 4-year-old daughter go with her to an unknown fate or continue in the Ukrainian-controlled territory. The mother and child eventually become separated.

The situation in Tyra and what it reveals about Russia’s treatment of Ukrainian prisoners takes on new significance as Mariupol’s last defenders are moved to Russian-controlled territory. Russia says more than 1,700 Ukrainian fighters have surrendered to a steel mill this week, while Ukrainian officials say the fighters have left after completing their mission.

The Ukrainian government says it tried to add Tyra’s name in exchange for a prisoner a few weeks ago. But Russia has refused to detain him, despite handcuffs and bruises on television networks in the separatist Donetsk region of Ukraine and on Russian NTV networks.

Taira is known in Ukraine as a star athlete as well as a person who trains the country’s volunteer medical forces. The video he took from February 6 to March 10 provided an intimate record of the besieged city, which has since become a global symbol of Russian aggression and Ukrainian resistance.

February 24, the first day of the war, is the chronicle of an attempt by a Ukrainian soldier to bandage an open head wound.

Two days later, he instructed his colleagues to wrap a wounded Russian soldier in a blanket. He calls the young man “Sunshine” – a favorite nickname for many soldiers who go through his arms – and asks why he came to Ukraine.

“You’re taking care of me,” he told her, almost to his surprise. Her response: “We treat everyone equally.”

Later that night, two children – a brother and a sister – were seriously injured in a checkpoint gunfight. Their parents have died. Towards the end of the night, “stay with me, little boy,” despite Tyra’s request.

Tyra turns her face away from her lifeless body and cries. “I hate (it),” he says.

Throughout the video, she complains of chronic pain from back and hip injuries. He cracked the joke. And as always, she wears a stuffed animal with her vest to hand over to any child she can treat.

On March 15, a police officer handed the small data card to a group of Associated Press reporters. Taira told reporters via walkie-talkie to get the card out of Mariupol safely. The card was hidden inside a tampon as reporters passed through 15 Russian checkpoints.

The next day, Taira disappeared with her driver Serhi.

On March 21, a video was broadcast on a Russian news channel announcing his capture. In it, he finds himself annoyed and uncomfortable reading a statement calling for an end to the war. As he speaks, a voiceover mocks his colleagues as Nazis.

With a husband and a teenage daughter, they knew what war could do to a family. At one point, a wounded Ukrainian soldier told him to call his mother and she told him she could call herself, “so don’t make him nervous.”

Tyra’s husband, Vadim Pujanov, said he had received little news since his wife went missing.

“Allegations of all pernicious sins, including organ transplants, against a volunteer doctor, are already hateful propaganda – I don’t even know who it is for,” he said.

They were part of the Invictus Games in Ukraine. Britain’s Prince Harry, who founded Invictus Games, received a body camera last year for filming for a Netflix documentary series on inspirational personalities.

Instead, he filmed the battle footage. In Tyre’s last video, he is sitting next to the driver who will disappear with him. It’s March 9th.

“Two weeks of fighting. Mariupol is under siege,” he says calmly. Then he curses someone in particular and the curtain goes dark.

Associated Press writer Sarah El Dib contributed from Beirut; Inna Varenytsia from Kyiv; Mstyslav Chernov from Kharkiv; Erica Kinetz from Brussels; And Elena Bekataros in Zaporizhia. Lori Hinant reports from Paris.

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