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The wives of Azovstal defenders are waiting for their husbands to return. “The last time he sent me a message was May 15, 2022.”

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President Zelensky paid a visit to Saudi Arabia. The goals of the talks include further mediation by the Saudis in the exchange of prisoners and deportees. Several such exchanges have been successful before. The families of Azovstal defenders are still waiting for the return of their loved ones. Soldiers’ wives systematically gather in the center of Kiev and appeal to the authorities to make efforts to bring their husbands home.

“Daddy, I dream of meeting you” – this is the inscription on the baby stroller. Little Renat is one and a half years old. His mother Aljona says he has never seen his father. – The last time I saw my husband was on February 24, 2022, when he said he had to defend our country. I was in my second month of pregnancy then, says Aljona Markowa.

Aljona’s mother-in-law shows a photo of her son Volodymyr. He participated in the defense of Azovstal until the steelworks were surrendered to the Russians. They have had no information about him for half a year. Many relatives, especially wives and mothers, demonstrated on the Maidan in Kiev. They held banners reading “Free the defenders of Azovstal.” – Even though it’s cold and snowing, hundreds of people came. They know that their husbands and sons in Russian captivity are now in much worse shape, said Nadja Kriewald, a reporter for RTL.

Passing cars honk loudly as a sign of solidarity. Alisa Chumak is also there with her son. – I come here every Sunday with my son to remind Ukrainians and the whole world that the defenders of Mariupol have been imprisoned for the second year – he notes. Her husband Denis was a member of the National Guard defending Mariupol. This port city in the south-east of the country was besieged by the Russians almost from the beginning of the war. A large part of it lay in ruins. According to estimates, 20,000 people died. Some of them were buried in mass graves.

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Ukrainian defenders took up positions in the Azovstal buildings. There they defended themselves for weeks, using the underground part of the industrial complex. Many of them died in the siege. Others suffered serious wounds.

Azostwal plant in Mariupol shelled by Russian forces. Archival recordingReuters Archive

Eternal waiting

In mid-May 2022, on Kiev’s orders, the defenders of the steelworks laid down their weapons. After the capitulation, Aljona and Alisa’s husbands were taken prisoner. – The last time he sent me a message was May 15, 2022. It was just a text message saying: “I’ll see you soon. I’m healthy and alive. Everything is fine.” Then, on May 20, he left the steelworks and was captured by the Russians, says Alisa.

A month before the outbreak of the war, the couple took photos together. Then everyone was happy. The wife had a tattoo of her husband’s image and a declaration of love underneath. She says that her son Timofij gives her strength. He is very similar to her husband. For a child, a father is just a photo. He doesn’t associate it with a real person. However, she feels that her husband is alive. – Every day I wait for a new prisoner exchange. (…) I’m waiting for a phone call, I’m constantly looking for it in photos and recorded messages. I check if his face is there and if his name is on the list – says Alisa Chumak. Prisoners have been exchanged between Ukraine and Russia more than 50 times. Unfortunately, neither Alona’s husband nor Alisa’s husband were among them. That’s why next Sunday women will be on Maidan again.

Facts about the World TVN24 BiS

Main photo source: RTL

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