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Ukraine war: Concern for medic who filmed Mariupol horror, captured by Russians

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By AP with Euronews
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Yuliia Paievska, known as Taira, and her driver Serhiy sit in a vehicle in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 9, 2022.
Yuliia Paievska, known as Taira, and her driver Serhiy sit in a vehicle in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 9, 2022.   -   Copyright  Yuliia Paievska via AP

A Ukrainian medic who recorded remarkable footage of injured soldiers and civilians in Mariupol has reportedly been captured by Russian forces.

Friends of Yuliia Paievska, also known as Taira, are praying for her safe return after her convoy was intercepted by troops in March.

Russian soldiers captured Taira and her driver on March 16, one of many forced disappearances in areas of Ukraine now held by Russia. 

Russia has portrayed Taira as working for the nationalist Azov Battalion, in line with Moscow's narrative that it is attempting to “denazify” Ukraine. But the AP found no such evidence, and friends and colleagues said she had no links to Azov.

The military hospital where she led evacuations of the wounded is not affiliated with the battalion, whose members have spent weeks defending a sprawling steel plant in Mariupol. 

The footage Taira recorded itself testifies to the fact that she tried to save wounded Russian soldiers as well as Ukrainian civilians.

She recorded her time in Mariupol on a data card no bigger than a thumbnail. Using a body camera, she recorded 256 gigabytes of her team’s frantic efforts over two weeks to bring people back from the brink of death. 

She got the harrowing clips to an Associated Press team, the last international journalists in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, one of whom fled with it in a tampon.

Taira is now a prisoner of the Russians, one of hundreds of prominent Ukrainians who have been kidnapped or captured, including local officials, journalists, activists and human rights defenders.

The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has recorded 204 cases of enforced disappearances. It said some victims may have been tortured, and five were later found dead. 

The office of Ukraine’s ombudswoman said it had received reports of thousands of missing people by late April, 528 of whom had probably been captured.

The Russians also are targeting medics and hospitals even though the Geneva Conventions single out both military and civilian medics for protection “in all circumstance.” 

The World Health Organization has verified more than 100 attacks on health care since the war began, a number likely to rise.