Shocking footage has shown the horrific effect being held captive by Putin’s men for nearly four months has had on Ukrainian soldiers.
Mykhailo Dianov was one of 205 POWs trafficked to freedom Wednesday night. Devastating social media images of the Ukrainian soldier reveal the true impact the Russian siege had on the war hero.
A photo shared of Dianov during the siege of Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol showed him smiling and flashing a peace sign, despite his arm being bandaged after it was shattered when his unit withstood a Russian siege.
The last photo of the now liberated Ukrainian shows him still smiling, but extremely thin and pale, with scars and bruises on his arm and face.
His right arm has not healed and, according to a Ukrainian new site, 4 cm of bone is missing due to the inhumane conditions under which he was kept.
A photo of Mykhailo Dianov before being held as a prisoner of war by Putin’s men (left) and after his release on Wednesday (right). Dianov spent almost four months as a prisoner of war, where his already shattered arm lost 4 cm of bone due to the poor conditions
A photo of Dianov smiling during the siege of the Azovstal steel mill, despite his arm being bandaged after it was shattered when his unit withstood a Russian siege (left)
During his release on Wednesday, he was seen again smiling and flashing a peace sign at the cameras as he walked free
Dianov, like his other soldiers released in the shock prisoner swap, survived against the odds, and many doubted they would be seen alive again.
After being released from captivity, Dianov visited a city hospital in Chernihiv, where he was reunited with his friends and family.
People who saw online the wounds Mr Dianov suffered after being held captive are shocked by the photos.
A Ukrainian journalist said: ‘Mykhailo Dianov, a musician and Ukrainian soldier who was recently released in a prisoner exchange.
‘First photo — Mykhailo during the siege of Azovstal. Second photo — Mykhailo after Russian captivity. I have no words. Terrifying.’
Another added: ‘When I opened this photo, I physically hurt myself. How did these unbreakable people survive. They need our help now.’
Dianov flashes a peace sign while visiting a city hospital in Chernihiv, Ukraine
In the hospital, he was reunited with friends and relatives after being held captive by Russian soldiers for nearly four months
The men, who were part of the Azoz military unit captured after the battle in Mariupol, spent nearly four months in Russian prison camps that have been compared to concentration camps.
Kremlin hardline supporters have called for the execution of Azoz members, calling them Nazis and war criminals.
However, in a shock move, the soldiers were confirmed to be safe and seen for the first time since their heroic last defense of Mariupol in May.
Both Dianov and his commander Denis Prokopenko, his deputy Svyatoslav Palamar and naval commander Serhiy Volynsky were declared safe.
Also pictured was Kateryna ‘Birdie’ Polishchuk, a medic whose singing at the Azovstal steel mill inspired a nation
Andriy Yermak, a top adviser to President Zelensky, said more than one of the fighters was heavily pregnant. Olena Zelenska, the First Lady, declared that it was “the day all of Ukraine was waiting for.”
In total, Russia agreed to release 215 Ukrainian prisoners, including the five Azov commanders and 10 foreign prisoners.
Sviatoslav Palamar, one of the officers of the Azov battalion last seen at the Azovstal steel mill, smiles after being released from Russian captivity late last night
Ukraine said 205 of its citizens — including 100 from the Azov battalion — were among those trafficked for just 56 Russians, including Putin ally Viktor Medvedchuk
A member of the Ukrainian armed forces embraces one of the newly released detainees last night, after Russia announced a surprise exchange for members of its own armed forces
Among them were Shaun Pinner, 48, and Aiden Aslin, 28, two British citizens who were imprisoned and sentenced to death after joining the fight against Russia in Ukraine.
In return, Russia received only 56 of their soldiers who were held captive.
Among the released Russians is Viktor Medvedchuk, Putin’s right-hand man in Ukraine, and President Zelensky says he has been exchanged for 200 Ukrainians.
Zelensky said the price was worth paying, and that Medvedchuk had already provided a lot of information to spies.
According to Zelensky, many of the freedmen belonged to the Ukrainian Azov regiment, which he called heroes.
In mid-May, more than 2,000 defenders, many in the Azov unit, marched from the wreckage of the Azovstal steel mill into Russian captivity, ending the siege of the port city of Mariupol.
According to a report on Zelensky’s website, five of the released Azov commanders now live in Turkey
Pinner and Aslin released a video after their release confirming they were “out of the danger zone.”
The couple, as well as the other three Britons, were reunited with their families.
Pinner’s sister Cassandra told MailOnline: ‘We are just relieved that he is home safe and sound, there are no words to express how grateful we are.
“He’s in a good mood, he’s still his funny self, even in this difficult time. In terms of health, he is also doing surprisingly well.’
Tired and smiling ex-British Army soldier Mr Pinner (second from right) was finally reunited with his family in the UK on Thursday after months of detention in Ukraine
Aiden Aslin returns to his home in Balderton, Newark on Thursday, after being released from custody for months by Russia’s returned separatists
Aiden Aslin (left) and Shaun Pinner (right) and Moroccan Saaudun Brahim (center) pictured during a sentencing hearing in the so-called Supreme Court of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic
Meanwhile, Mr Aslin spoke of his ‘traumatic experience’ as he was reunited with family at home in Balderton, Nottinghamshire this afternoon.
He arrived from Heathrow Airport around 2:20 p.m. in a silver Mitsubishi ASX with a Ukraine decal on the rear bumper. After getting out of the vehicle with family members, he went inside to be reunited with his “lucky” mother Ang Wood.
Aiden said on his doorstep, “Me and my family want privacy after the traumatic experience. Please respect this and when I’m ready to talk to the media, I will.”
Two US military veterans – Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27 – were also released thanks to the prisoner swap.
British Prime Minister Liz Truss said: “Huge welcome news that five British nationals held by Russian-backed proxies in eastern Ukraine are being returned safely, ending months of uncertainty and suffering for them and their families.”
Earlier this week, Putin also threatened the West with nuclear weapons over Ukraine after he announced plans to annex occupied parts of his territory to mainland Russia.