More information is being made public about the release of a Ukrainian frontline volunteer medic, made famous by her rescue efforts during the Russian siege of Mariupol.
The Office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the release of Yulia Payevska, more widely known to the Ukrainian public by the nickname Tayra, (a burrowing mammal) on Friday, June 17.
Later on, Russia’s First Channel Iryna Kuksenkova announced that Tayra was exchanged for Adam Hrytsenko. He is the 20-year-old son of Murad Saidov, the deputy to the representative of Chechen Republic leader Ramazan Kadyrov in Crimea, which was annexed by Russian forces in 2014. The sum of 25 million rubles was reportedly paid in the prisoner exchange, which went around official channels.
According to Ukrainian site Babel, Adam Hrytsenko is a citizen of Ukraine and doesn’t want to leave the country.
However, Murad Saidov denied in a video clip published on June 20 that any exchange involving his son had taken place.
Payevska had been in the custody of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) since March 16, as she is a civilian volunteer, not a member of Ukraine’s armed forces.
Tayra herself has not yet given a news conference or media interview; however, she has posted on Facebook that she has lost weight but is now receiving top medical care and will return to work soon.
She also recalled the continuing plight of Ukrainians still in Russian custody: “I am most hurt by the fate of the boys and girls sitting behind the walls of the enemy. When you are there, it seems that there is no hope, and Ukraine no longer exists as a state. We need to ensure that all prisoners are protected by the International Convention on Human Rights, because when you are there, you are completely disenfranchised as slaves.”
Her friend and activist Oksana Korchynska said that Tayra’s family was involved in helping secure her release. “Her husband Vadym Puzanov deserves a lot of credit for never giving up. Her daughter, who played the role of international ambassador and who took up her cause at international venues, also deserves credit.”
Tayra’s release was also assisted by three Ukrainian legislators, namely
Mariya Ionova, Ivanna Klympush-Tsyntsadze and Iryna Fryz. Former parliamentarian Hanna Hopko also helped Tayra’s cause.
“These four women appealed to the international community and international human rights organizations. They gave a speech in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the US Senate,” Korchynska confirmed.
Payevska, an Aikido trainer and designer in civilian life, served as a medic on the front lines when war first broke out with Russia in 2014.
She gained fame while filming rescue efforts with a body camera under the perilous conditions of the besieged southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol.
Tayra is also responsible for founding a volunteer frontline medical evacuation corps called Angels, which is credited with saving more than 500 Ukrainian servicemen before Russia’s all-out invasion in February.
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