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Situation in Donbass radically different from Ukrainian reports — Azov battalion fighter

A prisoner of war and former Ukrainian combatant Yury Suvala said that there had been an entire propaganda unit in the regiment, whose task was to instill in fighters the need to carry out an operation to regain control over the liberated territories lost by Ukraine

DONETSK, April 18. /TASS/. The situation in Russia’s new regions differs from the picture presented by the Ukrainian authorities in television broadcasts and from what the propagandists of the nationalist Azov battalion (banned in Russia as a terrorist organization) say, Yury Suvala, a prisoner of war and former Ukrainian combatant fighting under the Azov banner, told TASS.

"What they told us and what we actually saw here are radically different things. Even what we were shown on TV and what they told us in the regiment. There was an entire propaganda unit, some 20 people, who were tasked with this, starting from posters up to torchlight marches, and weekly lessons, where they checked attendance," Suvala said.

According to him, such concerted propaganda efforts instilled in fighters the need to carry out an operation to regain control over the liberated territories lost by Ukraine. "[We were told] that it is every citizen’s duty to take up arms and fight to liberate these territories, because people were being held hostage there. That’s what we were told. No one told us that people had every right to self-expression, and the situation unfolded not in the way that we were told it would," the fighter added. He said that his unit had to attend propaganda sessions every Friday.

Suvala had been in contact with members of the Azov nationalist battalion since 2014. He formally joined the battalion in 2018, and then re-enlisted in 2020. He was promoted to commander of a combat engineer unit. Since February 2022, he was stationed in Mariupol, where he surrendered to Russian forces at the Azovstal steel plant.

Suvala is now being held in a pre-trial detention center. The fighter is charged with using prohibited means and methods of warfare (Article 356 of the Russian Criminal Code [RCC]) and murder (Article 105 of the RCC). According to the fighter, while manning a checkpoint in Mariupol, he opened fire on a car that was approaching his roadblock post at high speed. As a result, the driver was killed.