British POW speaks out on cruel torture and regrets surrendering

war in Ukraine
British POW speaks out on cruel torture and regrets surrendering

Pictures of the exchange

Pictures of the exchange


One of the Britons released in a prisoner swap says he wished he had fought to the last rather than surrender and then be tortured.

Among the prisoners released in an exchange last week were five Britons who fought alongside the Ukrainians at Mariupol and resisted to the end at the Azov Steelworks. All three look very battered, they have turned grey, their faces are sunken, their bodies emaciated. They are now in the UK. One of them spoke about the brutal torture they endured. John Harding said soldiers jumped on his body and broke his ribs. He had blood in his urine from his internal injuries. In retrospect, he regrets that he surrendered at the time. “If I had known beforehand how they were going to treat us, I would have stayed and set up a sniper nest and tried to take out a few of them before I got killed myself,” he told The Sun.

Mediation by Roman Abramovich

Harding was released Wednesday with fellow countrymen Shaun Pinner, Aiden Aslin, Dylan Healy and Andrew Hill under a deal co-brokered by Roman Abramovich, former Chelsea Football Club owner. They are said to have all fought in the Georgian Legion, a volunteer unit, in Mariupol.

Harding said he was in three different prisons in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, including the notorious camp known as “The Dark Side.” The separatists did not see the foreigners as prisoners of war but as mercenaries and threatened them with the death penalty. The worst moment of his captivity was when Russian soldiers put a sack over his head and tied his hands behind his back. They then jumped on him, punched and kicked him for over half an hour, breaking most of his ribs. “I was like, ‘I just wish they would fucking kill me right now,'” Harding said. “That was the worst moment – the way they treated us was appalling.”

Wars between Russia and Ukraine: Ukrainian counter-offensive shows success

Exchange via Saudi Arabia

The detainees were received by Saudi Arabian officials at a Russian airport on Wednesday. The 200 exchanged fighters included a total of ten foreigners, including the British, two US military veterans, one Moroccan, one Swede and one Croat.

The assistant from Abramovich has explained the role of the oligarch to Harding. “She said Roman played a key role in bringing us back. It’s amazing that he was involved – I wouldn’t even have been able to recognize him if I saw him. He’s very popular with the Ukrainians respected and now by us – he’s done a hell of a lot for us and we can’t thank him enough.”

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