Russians demanded ransom from 18-year-old Ukrainian POW’s mother as ‘reason’ to not kill him
Oleksiy Novikov is from Mariupol and was studying political science when Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The young lad, who had only turned 18 less than a month earlier, volunteered immediately, joining Ukraine’s Territorial Defence on 25 February. His mother, Olha Novikova, explained in to the ‘Free Our Relatives’ program on Hromadske Radio that her son was deployed immediately, and that this was the last time she saw him. Initially, there was contact via Messenger, however even this stopped in the appalling conditions of Russia’s bombardment and blockade of the city.
Oleksiy was taken prisoner on 23 April 2022, although his mother learned of this on 24 April, when a stranger, speaking Russian, contacted her on her son’s Messenger account, and said that he was in custody. She initially thought that this was a joke, but then his captors posted a video of the young lad’s ‘interrogation’ as well as a photo of his identity documents.
It was after this that she received another call, this time giving her 15 minutes to “give them a reason” not to beat her son. She was given until the following day, 25 April, to pay five thousand euros, and says that she understood from the outset that this was payment so that they would not kill her son.
Olha herself was well-known in the film world in Mariupol, but by April 2022, her life, like that of millions of other Ukrainians, had been turned upside down, and she herself was a refugee. She did manage to raise the money, and also began tirelessly searching for her son.
As well as trying, with no success, to approach the Russian Red Cross, she contacted the International Committee of the Red Cross, its branches in other countries, as well as other international structures. She strongly advises the relatives of other prisoners of war and civilian hostages to not be afraid and to persist in such efforts. Although repeatedly fobbed off, she did finally receive confirmation in October 2022 that Oleksiy was in Russian captivity. Typically, no further information was provided, however she has since spoken with three former POWs who were later released and can confirm that they saw Oleksiy in Russian prison.
Olha did in fact receive one call from Oleksiy, in July 2022, but this was a mixed blessing, as he told her then that he was imprisoned at the Olenivka camp in occupied Donbas that former inmates describe as a concentration camp. The call was not long before the fatal (and probably deliberate) explosion on 29 July 2022 at Olenivka that killed over 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war. That was an agonizing time for all families of POWs, with the Russians providing little information and blocking either Ukrainian or international investigators from visiting the scene. When the first lists of victims emerged, there was an Oleksiy Novikov on it, however the patronymic was different, as well as the year of birth.
It is possible that Oleksiy was initially held by one of the illegal armed formations (the Wagner unit, fighters linked with Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov, etc) that Russia is using for its war against Ukraine, and that it was they who demanded the ransom for Oleksiy’s life. Under all circumstances, however, it is Russia who answers for hi life.
Oleksiy is turning 20 on 26 January, somewhere in Russian captivity. Olha Novikova’s frustration with the Red Cross, and the limitations on what they are willing to do is largely shared by the relatives of many other prisoners of war. Russia has prevented an independent investigation into what was probably the deliberate killing of over 50 Ukrainian defenders at Olenivka. It is known that the treatment of prisoners of war in occupied Ukraine or Russia is appalling, with international investigators reporting that most POWs are subjected to torture and appalling treatment. Russia is also staging huge numbers of fake ‘trials’ of Ukrainian prisoners of war, with Ukrainians who were defending their country as soldiers accused, without any evidence of essentially those war crimes that the aggressor state has been committing since February 2022.
There is also terrifying evidence suggesting that the Russians are also killing Ukrainian prisoners of war in cold blood, or using them as human shields.