From his hospital bed in the Ukrainian capital, Russian fighter Alexander Alexandrov feels abandoned by his country, its leaders and even the local Russian consul.
Alexandrov, 28, says he's a Russian soldier who was captured in east Ukraine after being sent there on active duty with Russian special forces to help separatists fighting Kiev. He said he was serving on a three-year contract. "I never tore it up, I wrote no resignation request," he said. "I was carrying out my orders."
Yet Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the face of widespread evidence to the contrary, has repeatedly said there are no Russian soldiers in Ukraine — only volunteers who have gone to help the separatists of their own accord.
So Alexandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, another Russian who was captured with him, find themselves pawns in the deepest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.
They believe they should be treated as captured servicemen. But Moscow will not admit they are any such thing, or that it has sent any soldiers into Ukraine to help wrest swathes of east away from Kiev's control. To do so would undermine Moscow's claims that the separatist uprising there is a spontaneous reaction by Russian-speaking communities against Kiev.
The Kremlin has described the two men as Russian citizens, and Russia's defense ministry has said they are former soldiers who left the military before they were captured.
Disowned at home, the two men stand accused by Ukrainian authorities of being terrorists.
In an interview from his bed, Alexandrov, wearing a hospital-issue green T-shirt and with several days stubble on his face, told Reuters he felt alone and trapped between these vast forces. He said the Russian consul in Kiev had visited him and Yerofeyev, but had been a let-down. The two captives had hoped Moscow would get them home in a prisoner exchange, but they said the consul had been non-committal.
"I asked him a few questions. There was no answer to them. He said that when he has the answers, he will come again and let us know what they are," said Alexandrov, whose leg was shattered in a gun battle.
The Russian embassy in Kiev had no comment on Friday. In an earlier statement it had described Alexandrov and Yerofeyev as "Russian citizens detained in the Luhansk region" and said they were receiving proper medical treatment. "Embassy officials plan to visit the compatriots regularly," the statement said.
Ukrainian armed servicemen and officials in civilian clothes were present during the interviews Alexandrov and Yerofeyev gave to Reuters. Both Russian men made it clear they were active service members of the Russian military on the day they were captured. Alexandrov said he knew his military identification number off by heart: E131660.
He also said he fears for his relatives back in Russia. A few days ago, his wife, Yekaterina, appeared on Russian state television. Looking nervous, and talking in stilted phrases, she said her husband had quit the Russian military in December last year. That account was helpful to Putin's claims that only volunteer Russians have gone to Ukraine.
"They said I was no longer a serviceman," Alexandrov said. "It's a bit hurtful, especially when they do it through your family, through your wife. That crosses a line."
Alexandrov, who was captured on May 16, said he had been unable to get hold of his wife by telephone for nearly two weeks. She has not replied to his messages posted on social media accounts. A photograph of him with his wife stood on the table next to his bedside.
As I said in a previous post, Russia and North Korea have become VERY similar lately. Especially when it comes to the coercion of making relatives to "dissidents" appear in State Television to speak of their relatives "crimes" in order to save themselves from being "psychologically treated" by the "nice" Russian Federation Paradise-police. ;)
GFL has to be destroyed. They actually support these fascists!