Emotions ran high when the helicopters with 74 Ukrainian prisoners of so-called LNR and DNR terrorist organizations, landed at Kharkiv International Airport yesterday at about 10 p.m.
The exchange was held according to Minsk negotiations protocol after several weeks of preparation. Yesterday, the Ukrainian part returned 233 people to Donbas militants and after that 74 Ukrainian citizens were liberated and taken back home.
The released captives were warmly welcomed by President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, Minister of Defence of Ukraine Stepan Poltorak, security officials, cadets together with the overwhelmed families and friends, who were struggling to free their dearest ones for several years. Among the ex-prisoners were ATO veterans, military volunteers and residents of the occupied territories, convicted for supporting Ukraine. All of them proved to be invincible and real heroes.
Poroshenko greeted the released Ukrainians, expressed confidence that their freedom is the first victory on the way to get back the occupied Ukrainian territories, thanked foreign leaders – German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron – for their support and all those who helped to set free the Ukrainian hostages.
There were two Kharkivites among the ex-prisoners.
One of the most long-awaited captives was a military volunteer Oleksiy Kirichenko, who was imprisoned in August 2014. Kharkiv Observer told his story, attracting international attention to the hero. Now, our team shares Oleksiy’s family joy.
In a short speech of acknowledgment, Kirichenko said that their joy of coming home “is not complete,” because not all the war prisoners have returned back to Ukraine yet. Also, Kirichenko emphasized that the Russia backed separatists “believe in Lenin and Stalin” and that communist ideology was one of the causes of war in Ukraine.
“They do not understand what wrongs Lenin had perpetrated. They are convinced that Stalin was a saint and they showed me icons with his face!” said Oleksiy Kirichenko. He added that Ukraine still needs to “repent the sin of communism.”
Another released Kharkivite is Andriy Bessarab from Chuhuiv, who was in captivity since 2016.
The heroes were brought from Kharkiv to Kyiv for a preliminary rehabilitation program.
Text: Olena Sokolynska
Photo: Petro Poroshenko FB, Vyacheslav Madievsky, UkrInform