A high-profile Ukrainian combat brigade confirmed earlier reports that it had captured dozens of Russian soldiers during fighting in the northern combat sector, with the release on Wednesday of images and video that showed 24 of the Kremlin’s fighters being taken prisoner.

A 28-minute YouTube video made public by Ukraine’s 3rd Assault Brigade claimed the soldiers shown sitting in a school conference room had all been taken prisoner during combat operations around the north Ukrainian town Vovchansk.

During the introduction to the video, it was claimed that all of the Russian soldiers spoke on camera voluntarily.  Apart from one soldier with a bandaged arm, none of the POWs showed visible injuries.

Kyiv Post identified that two individual soldiers shown on the video had been previously seen on a helmet cam being captured by Ukrainian forces on Monday. Ukrainian military social media first reported substantial numbers of Russian troops surrendering in that sector last week, following counterattacks by Ukrainian infantry assault units.

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Earlier Kyiv Post reports had confirmed Russian soldiers surrendering, in and around Vovchansk, to elements of the 3rd Assault Brigade, Ukraine’s Border Troops command, its 36th Marine Brigade, special operations units and national guardsmen. A June 7 statement by the Khortitsiya Regional Command, the Ukrainian military headquarters primarily responsible for ground operations in the sector, claimed that more than 60 Russian soldiers had been captured there in less than a week.

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Two officers from the 3rd Brigade told Kyiv Post that during recent fighting there were a large number of Russian surrenders. Reviewing Wednesday’s video, the language used by soldiers, their accounts of combat, images of Russian military identification documents, previous content published by the Brigade, along with descriptions of the personal backgrounds of the prisoners led Kyiv Post to conclude that the video is authentic.

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Most soldiers speaking in the video complained they had been forced into the Russian army because of financial or legal problems, that training was superficial, and that once deployed to the field, food and water were in short supply. One said other soldiers beat him because his asthma prevented him from moving quickly enough.

Almost without exception, the prisoners said their units had suffered crushing losses during dismounted attacks against well-prepared Ukrainian positions backed with artillery and FPV drones. Some reported casualty rates of above 90 percent during a single assault, with regular army Russian officers remaining behind the lines and not leading or participating in the attacks.

“We got an order to attack some positions inside a chemical factory. I don’t know, maybe there were 70 of us. We drove there at night on BMPs [infantry fighting vehicles].

“The drones came almost immediately and wiped out just about everyone. Most of us were hit. They [the Ukrainians] worked professionally. They were FPV drones using night vision. Then Baba Yagas [heavy bomb-dropping drones] came. And then kamikaze drones. Only seven of us survived and we were wounded [sheltering] in a bunker. Then they [3rd Brigade infantry] came and took us prisoner,” one of the Russian soldiers said.

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Units identified to which the captured Russian troops said they belonged were the 28th Motor Rifle Brigade and the 283rd Motor Rifle Regiment.

Several soldiers stated they became prisoners of war after becoming the sole survivor of an unsupported ground attack, taking cover, and then being captured by Ukrainian infantry assaulting the following morning.

Screenshot from Ukraine’s 3rd Assault Brigade video of Russian soldiers taken prisoner in recent action in the northern Kharkiv sector.

Those accounts were consistent with helmet cam video made public by Ukrainian soldiers, and statements from Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) commanders that Russian assaults in the Kharkiv sector have effectively come to a halt, and that Kyiv forces began launching short-range counterattacks from early June.

Russia has claimed it has captured around 6,000 Ukrainian soldiers since its invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022. Almost half had been taken prisoner following the encirclement and 85-day siege of the Azov Sea port city of Mariupol. Kyiv officials have stated around 3-3,500 Russian soldiers are in Ukrainian custody.

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On camera interviews of groups of Russian prisoners of war have been extremely rare. On March 5, 2022, ten recently captured Russian soldiers took questions from reporters at a press conference organized by the Interfax news agency. In April 2023 Kyiv authorities gave selected Ukrainian media, including Kyiv Post, access to a prison facility for interviews with members of the Russian mercenary group Wagner.

Several soldiers told an unidentified interviewer speaking Russian that they were forced into Russian army service and that they had no choice but to participate in their country’s invasion of Ukraine. 

“There is this thing called ‘an order given in combat.’ And if you, for example, how would you say it, if you don’t do what you’re told to do, then that is already, well, you know, that’s execution,” one soldier explained.

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