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Friends and family of Ukrainian prisoners of war traumatised by Russian plane crash

By AFP

January 27, 2024 01:07 AM


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The crash of a Russian military plane, said by Moscow to be carrying Ukrainian prisoners of war, has only heightened the trauma of friends and relatives of those missing in action.

The transport plane crashed in a fireball on Wednesday near the Ukraine border. Russia, which accuses Kiev of shooting down the Ilyushin 76 plane, maintains that it was carrying 65 Ukrainian prisoners but has provided no proof.

Ukraine has neither denied nor confirmed any involvement, but has raised doubts about the presence of its nationals on board, calling for an independent investigation.

Whatever fa34GX4Q9cts may emerge, the controversy has only deepened the suffering of the relatives of thousands of Ukrainian servicemen still in Russian hands.

When Valeriia Dolia, a 28-year-old Ukrainian, heard about Wednesday's crash, it was "as if time stopped still".

"For three hours, while you're watching the news, you don't exist any more, you look at your phone and that's it," Dolia, whose friend Vadim has been held captive for a year and a half, told AFP on Friday.

'A definitive answer'

More than 8,000 Ukrainians, including more than 1,600 civilians, are currently being held by the Russians, according to Kyiv.

Yevgenia Synelnyk, 30, has had no news of her brother Artem, who is also a prisoner of war. Artem and Vadim were both captured at the Azovstal factory in the southern Ukraine city of Mariupol in May 2022.

It was there that the last defenders of the besieged town, now regarded as heroes in Ukraine, were entrenched. When she saw the news of the plane crash, Synelnyk said she was "shocked, but not entirely". 

She is still scarred by the July 2022 bombing of a prison in Olenivka, eastern Ukraine, which killed more than 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war. Kiev and Moscow blame each other for the bombing, but she is convinced that Russia committed a "terrorist act".

So, for her, Wednesday's crash just shows that the Russian army is "continuing" with acts of atrocity. "They are showing the whole world how they manipulate prisoners of war," Synelnyk said.

"So it's just another disappointment, and it's already so tiring, but what can we do about it?" "In our situation, the normal state is to be exhausted, depressed and anguished."

Despite that anguish, she is determined to "fight" for her brother until she finally gets "a definitive answer". "That's the only goal. 

US-Ukraine aid package not to pass Congress, says House speaker

The Republican speaker of the House of Representatives said Friday that Congress is not ready to approve renewal of US military aid crucial to Ukraine for its desperate fight against Russian invasion. The Senate "appears unable to reach any agreement," wrote Speaker Mike Johnson in a letter to lawmakers, adding that in any case his party would not give approval in the House, meaning it "would have been dead on arrival."

The Senate had been closing in on a bipartisan deal that would provide massive new aid for pro-Western Ukraine's military, which is about to enter its third year of fighting against the invasion launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

At the insistence of Republicans, President Joe Biden's Democratic Party had agreed to attach to the aid bill a package of wide-ranging changes to security on the US-Mexico border. The complex negotiations aimed at giving Republicans a key win on their demands to fight illegal migration across the border in exchange for maintaining Biden's foreign policy goal of assisting Ukraine now appear to have collapsed.

This follows lobbying by Donald Trump, the former president and likely Republican nominee to contest the November presidential election. Trump, who has questioned the US support for Ukraine's war effort, has placed fear over illegal immigration at the heart of his platform.

This week he came out against the extensive border reforms being negotiated in the Senate, calling them "meaningless," although senior Republicans said the proposed measures would mark the toughest new restrictions on border crossings in years. Democrats narrowly control the Senate, while Republicans have their own slim majority in the House, with far-right Trump allies holding the balance of power there.

Johnson said Biden was responsible for a "border catastrophe" and said Republicans would seek to remove Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in an impeachment process starting next week. A vote on impeaching Mayorkas will be held "as soon as possible," Johnson wrote.

 

 


AFP


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