Petro Titenko says his decision to walk to his brother's house after curfew in Borodyanka, Ukraine, led to three days of torture at the hands of Russian soldiers.
Titenko spoke with The Guardian about his experience, sharing that at several points during his ordeal, he was certain the soldiers were going to kill him. Before he was captured, Titenko said, his family was staying inside their cellar, because they knew civilians outside were being killed by Russian soldiers. On March 18, Titenko decided to take a risk and go out after curfew so he could check on his brother, who lived about three miles away.
He told The Guardian that halfway there, three Russian soldiers came out of a wooded area and stopped him. They accused Titenko of giving information on Russian locations to the Ukrainian army, and tied his hands behind his back and put a sack on his head.
On that first night in captivity, Titenko told The Guardian, he was tied to a tank, forced to breathe in fumes from the exhaust pipe for about 30 minutes, then spend a freezing night on his feet. He and another prisoner were loaded on a tank and driven away. Titenko said he heard one of the Russian soldiers say he was "tired" of having to bury prisoners.
Once at their destination, Titenko said he was forced to lie in mud, then kicked into a pit and subjected to a mock execution.
Instead of dying in the pit, Titenko told The Guardian, he was brought to a house, and interrogated overnight by Russian soldiers who took his passport and other documents. From there, he was taken to a location with additional prisoners, where he was beaten for 20 minutes and later stripped to his underwear. "Then a machine gun was fired over my head, shot at my feet," he told The Guardian. "All this time I prayed to God to save my life."
Titenko said many of the prisoners were taken away, and not seen or heard from again. After three nights in captivity, Titenko was released without explanation near the village of Ozera, 20 miles from his home. He had to go through several Russian checkpoints to get to Borodyanka, he told The Guardian, and once he made it home, he fled with his family to western Ukraine. Read more at The Guardian.