The first time the Russian soldiers caught him, they tossed him bound and blindfolded into a trench covered with wooden boards for days on end.
Then they beat him, over and over: Legs, arms, a hammer to the knees, all accompanied by furious diatribes against Ukraine. Before they let him go, they took away his passport and Ukrainian military ID — all he had to prove his existence — and made sure he knew exactly how worthless his life was.
“No one needs you,” the commander taunted. “We can shoot you any time, bury you a half-meter underground and that’s it.”
The brutal encounter at the end of March was just the start. Andriy Kotsar would be captured and tortured twice more by Russian forces in Izium, and the pain would be even worse. [Continue reading…]
Even after three months of captivity that included execution threats, physical torture, solitary confinement and food deprivation, it was the ride to freedom that nearly broke Alex Drueke, a U.S. military veteran released last week with nine other prisoners who went to help Ukraine fight off Russian invaders.
His hands were bound. His head was covered by a plastic bag, and the packing tape holding it in place was secured so tightly it it caused welts on his forehead. Drueke said he and fellow American prisoner Andy Huynh reached their limit in this state during the transit, which occurred in a series of vehicles from eastern Ukraine to an airport in Russia that was surrounded by armed guards.
“For all we went through and all the times we thought we might die, we accepted that we might die, we were ready to die when it came, that ride was the only time that each of us independently prayed for death just to get it over with,” Drueke told The Associated Press in an interview Friday.
“The mental and emotional torture of those last 24 hours in captivity, that was the worst,” he said. [Continue reading…]