Famous Ukrainian police general Vyacheslav Abroskin offered to hold Russia hostage in exchange for the release of children from the bombed port of Mariupol. Many of them are already dead, others may die soon. Russia does not yet want to allow a safe evacuation of the city. “The Russians are interested in me and the exchange for children is a possible way to save them,” he said in an interview with Respekt. “I appeal to the Russian occupiers – give me the opportunity to have children from Mariupol, instead of living children, I offer myself,” he wrote on Facebook.
What brings you to your offer? Russia can kill you…
From 2014 to 2018 I was the chief of police of the Donetsk region, our headquarters was located directly in Mariupol. In November 2014, the police were not operational in the region and mistrust was high. When I resigned in 2018, people trusted the police 70%. But they managed to gain the trust of the locals, they saw our results. These were difficult times, we went through a difficult time with them – it was after Russia’s first attack on Ukraine, Ukrainian soldiers were killed in Debaltsev, and the eastern part of Mariupol was shelled. I know a lot of people in this town and I have a lot of friends there. I promised to defend them. But it so happened that at the beginning of the war, on February 24, I found myself in Odessa. I thought the main battles would be for this third largest Ukrainian city, but I was wrong. In Mariupol, meanwhile, all hell broke loose. The Russian bombardments do not stop, people are hiding where they can. Many of them contacted me, I thought about what I could do. The Russians are interested in me, the exchange for children is a possible way to save them.
Why are they interested in you?
They have a sanctions list of Ukrainian citizens. I am in second place. I fought against them, we managed to repel the Russian attack on Mariupol in 2014 and 2015, their soldiers died. They want me. In 2017 they tried to kill me.
Do you already have a reaction from the Russian army if it accepts your proposal?
Not yet. It is of course possible that civilian casualties in Mariupol and further killings of innocent people, including children, are of greater value to them.
If the exchange took place, aren’t you afraid they’ll kill you right away?
I don’t think about it, not at the moment. It is absolutely essential for me to do something for the children surrounded.
Do you have a plan for what a possible replacement should look like? Should the children be released first, then you would leave? Or would both take place at the same time and in the same place?
I need three days to prepare and organize the exchange. I explained this to the Russians. The exchange would take place at one of the checkpoints, where me and the children would be.
How many children are left in Mariupol?
There are still tens of thousands of people in Mariupol who have not managed to leave. How many of them are children is unclear, but it will be a large group.
Read also: How to save Mariupol
Mariupol is still bombarded, fighting inside the city, but the Russian army has not yet taken control of it. Can Russia do it?
I have good contacts with the Azov combat division. They are very motivated warriors, patriots. The Russians underestimate them. Azov is fighting for Mariupol and Russia does not want to extradite him under any circumstances. There is determination on our side, we are a tough opponent.
You lead the militia in Odessa. Will the Russians end up attacking it as well?
It’s like Mariupol. We will never let them go. We will fight to the last man, I mean to the last dead Russian soldier. The locals do not leave, they love their city, we are ready to face the Russian occupiers at any time.
Several Russian ships arrived in Odessa Bay two weeks ago. Why didn’t they finally land and leave?
For strategic reasons, I cannot go into details. In general, I can say that the paratroopers of the ships only go into action if they have the support of the mainland. This did not happen in Odessa. The occupants did not enter the city, they were stopped in the direction of the Crimea in the cities before Odessa.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced on Friday that the first part of the war was over and would now focus on Donbass. Is this an admission that the Russian operation failed, and in many places failed as expected?
Every day we see that they have not achieved the success they wanted. They won no strategic victory. They clearly failed.