In appearance, all sailors are calm, and it may even seem that everything is fine with them.
“WE BECAME HOSTAGES”
All Russian dry cargo ships that, by the will of fate, ended up in the territorial waters of Ukraine before February 24, remain there. And all these long months, the members of their crews, ordinary sailors, remain involuntary hostages, caught between two fires, between sea and land, between life and, in fact, captivity.
The correspondent of kp.ru spoke with the ship’s cook, 56-year-old Rabiyat Agayevamiraculously got out of this captivity. And with the relatives of the sailors who are still there, on the other side of all fronts.
“Good afternoon, we are the crew of the Volgobalt-244 vessel on the territory of Ukraine. In the port of the ship-repair plant in the city of Izmail, harsh men are reading from a piece of paper to the camera. – They came here in early February for repairs, but since February 24 everything has stopped. We have become hostages: we cannot go ashore, as we are guarded by armed people, we cannot pay for cellular communications, which for us now is the only way to contact the outside world, we cannot buy or pay for anything – bank cards have stopped working . Food and drinking water in a minimum amount. We are 8 crew members, all citizens of Russia. There are also several more Russian ships on the territory of the plant. There are 67 of us in Izmail at two ship repair yards. We are all morally tired and want to return home… Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich, all hope is in you. Help!”.
“EVERY TIME FEAR – WILL SHOOTING BE OPENED OR NOT”
In appearance, all sailors are calm, and it may even seem that everything is fine with them. But…
– When I saw this recording, I felt sick, – 56-year-old Rabiyat from Makhachkala sighs heavily. – I felt the fear, despair and hopelessness of the guys with my skin. Consciousness brought me back there. This is nightmare and horror. A lot of people don’t understand how hard it is. Yes, and they will not understand, if God forbid they themselves do not find themselves in such a position.
Do you know any of the people in the video?
– Of course!
Less than a month later, Rabiyat herself was on one of these ships. Worked out the second contract as a cook.
– Actually, there is a vacation between contracts. But I agreed to a second term only because the ship was going for repairs. That is, to stand in the port, and not these storms, storms. And money because I wanted to earn. But I didn’t know what would happen…
Rabiyat says that they arrived at the plant in Ukrainian Izmail back in January. And everything was as usual. There was a repair, the crew calmly went ashore, walked around the city. But on the morning of February 24th…
“People in uniform came to us, they said that’s it, now we can’t go anywhere. And from that day on, our foot was not on dry land. You know, it’s very difficult psychologically – here it is the land, but you can’t get out. All the time only a ship, a closed space. At first, once a day, and then already two of us were built and counted like sheep.
– Soldiers with machine guns. And their weapons were always on edge. It’s very scary. No, we were not beaten, we were not mocked openly. Well, they said everything, of course, they provoked it on purpose.
– What did they say?
– Well … “the Muscovites are filthy, they will cut you all” and so on. I don’t want to tell everything, the guys are still there … And every time this fear – they will open fire, no … Phones, computers were all checked. Who are you talking to, what are you talking about? I don’t know for sure, but maybe the calls were tapped. Yes, for sure! We were not allowed to walk around the deck once again, we were not even allowed to talk loudly. Apparently, we annoyed them very much. And we were also very afraid that the “Azov” would break into the territory of the shipyard and attack us. We are completely defenseless there. Why were we kept there? What are we to blame? That they came there for repairs? It’s all so unfair.
“ZELENSKY SAID THAT ALL SHIPS ARE NOW LIKE A TROPHY”
Rabiyat assures that, despite the fact that their ship was, in maritime terms, “cut” (the skin was removed. – Ed.), they could have left Ishmael.
– But Zelensky said that all ships remain like a trophy. And we? Where are we? Our people literally went crazy. One young guy kept trying to run away to buy a moped and ride it home. What moped? There, outside the factory, everything is mined. And you won’t even swim away – there are mines in the water. But he didn’t seem to understand…
TRANSPORTED IN BAGS ON THE HEAD
Of all the unwitting hostages, there were only 4 women – all cooks. Somehow, they managed to agree on their removal from Ishmael.
– On the eve of the exchange, I did not sleep all night, I was so nervous. Approximately 3-4 cheers came to pick up. From our ship there was me and a man of age, he had been ill with coronavirus for a month, so they agreed to transfer him to Russia. It was already scary to look at him – all yellow …
First, we were taken in a military vehicle to a nearby factory, where two more women were taken away. And then, when they had already left the territory, they put a bag on everyone’s head. It was such a bag, not like potatoes. Dense, polyethylene inside. Breathing is completely impossible. Sweat poured out just like a bucket from his head. I am hypertensive, I lost consciousness several times on the road. But a Ukrainian officer, very angry, who was looking after us immediately said to us: “Any attempt to remove the bag, I open a line. Escape attempt – I open the queue. Any movement towards my machine gun is the same. The car was shaking on the road so that we flew over the body and all this in the complete darkness of this bag. I was clutching at the air, everyone was afraid that this machine gun would suddenly come across.
– And how many of you were taken like that?
– Five o’clock. With stops…
RUNNING FROM BAYRAKTAR
Rabiyat says that the bag was finally removed from her head only when it was handed over to our military.
The sun hit my eyes so hard. I didn’t know where to go at all. And everyone shouted: “Faster, faster.” Thanks to our Russian colonel, he took each of us by the hand and transferred us to a minibus. Everything is so fast, I didn’t even have time to see anything – where we are, what we are. Already on the bus, I came to my senses a little and saw on the floor the bandages with which Ukrainian prisoners were blindfolded – just white, cloth. And us in bags…
– Here you have already exhaled, probably. Almost at home already?
– Not. It started like this, you have no idea. The colonel shouted to the driver: “Sink! Topi! And we rushed off at such a speed! With crazy simple. The driver sped so that the wheels simply did not seem to touch the ground. We literally flew. And there is no road, ruins. I thought this bus was about to fall apart. Someone asked the colonel: “What is it? Why such a rush.” And he replied that Bayraktar was flying behind us, right on our heels. And any slowdown will blow us up. So we raced to ours, even because of a punctured wheel, we did not slow down.
In a word, Rasiyat and her companions breathed out only at the headquarters.
– There was a field kitchen, and the guy is a cook of my fellow countryman. We were fed this military gruel, and I have never eaten anything tastier in my life …
GUYS, HOLD ON
– Will you go to work on the ship?
– And where to go? You have to live on something. I will improve my health and go. Just so that the ship does not sail towards Ukraine. Categorically.
– What would you say to the men who were still there?
– Hold on! Hope dies last. All the days that I was in captivity in Ishmael, I prayed to the Almighty. And here at home I also pray for the guys. It does not matter that I am a Muslim and they are Christians. We are all humans.
Rasiyat communicates with the relatives of the sailors who remained in Izmail. Especially with those who are also from Dagestan.
– I have a brother there, – Zhanna Puliyeva from Makhachkala told me. – We are in touch every day. He says that the situation they have more or less. Here came the Ukrainian official. He asked how health, how with food. I told them that it was Russia that was slowing down the exchange. Lying, probably on purpose. My brother has a wife and four children at home in Dagestan. The youngest has just finished first grade. We are all looking forward to it.
– I read that sailors were offered to take Ukrainian citizenship? Did your brother tell you anything?
Yes, they offered. But they weren’t forced to.
The sailors’ relatives have been hounding the thresholds of all possible instances all these months. And part of the crews, by hook or by crook, has already returned to their homeland. But the rest are still there.
– What are the prospects for returning? – I asked Natalya Vladimirovna from Rostov. She has a son on one of the ships stuck in Ishmael.
– We ourselves would like to know what … But so far nothing is clear. I am in touch with my son every day. He says that nothing terrible is happening. They just don’t release it anywhere. Calms me down, I guess. We wait. Somehow this has to be resolved sooner or later.
THE CAPTAIN OF ONE OF THE VESSELS: “TWO HAVE ALREADY NATURALLY GOT THE ROOF”
Not immediately, but I managed to contact the captain of one of the ships stuck in Ukraine. We will not name him so as not to endanger him.
– How is the situation? How is the crew feeling?
– Hard. Everyone was very tired mentally and physically. There are those who have been on the ship for 9-10 months. I personally am already the 8th. This whole situation is depressing. These checks are ongoing. As far as I understand, they are checking to make sure they don’t run away. But even so it is impossible to escape – there are checkpoints all around.
– What do you do all day long?
– Nothing. We wait, we hope and we believe. I really want to go home. We write everywhere and everywhere – to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Commissioner for Human Rights in Russia, to the UK. No matter where they wrote. From everywhere the answer: “We know about you, we are dealing with the issue.” All. There were a couple of times there were talks about exchanges, we expected that tomorrow they would come for us, but nothing happened … The guys no longer believe in anything.
– Have you seen the video message of your colleagues? Do you think that maybe because of this, the Ukrainian military will take some measures against them?
– We ourselves thought about it. Maybe they will. To be honest, it doesn’t even matter anymore. People are very tired. Yesterday they came from the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights in Ukraine. They said that Moskalkova got in touch with them and asked them to come check on us. I asked if there was any hope of an exchange. And if so, for whom we can be exchanged. Because it is already clear that for the military – no, for civilians – no. They replied that maybe the sailors from Mariupol …
What is the hardest thing right now?
– Now four people are in dire need of evacuation. This is a sailor from a neighboring ship, he naturally went crazy. A psychiatrist came and concluded that he was not fooling around, he really felt bad… In addition to him, there was a man on the other ship with the same problem. The third is a senior engineer from the Omsky-132 ship, he has a heart problem. The fourth one is me. The wife needs an urgent operation, and there is no one to leave the child with. That’s it.
– When did you have to leave Ishmael?
We arrived in January. And usually the repair takes 2, maximum 3 months. That is, they should have left in April. The sailors have contracts for 4 months + 1. I personally had to be at home back in May.
Among those remaining in the Izmail seaport are the ships Chelsea, Volgobalt-244, Volgobalt-193, Volgobalt-225, Rondo and others. Among the crew members are sailors from all over Russia – Krasnodar, Stavropol and Primorsky Territories, Arkhangelsk, Rostov Regions and other regions of our boundless country.