Photos of released Ukrainian prisoners of war show emaciated bodies in ‘horrifying’ condition

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Roman Gorilyk is now little more than a skeleton. His ribs and collarbones are sticking out, his belly is sunken, his shoulder and hip joints clearly visible under his pale skin.

Gorilyk’s extreme emaciation appears to be the result of the two years he spent in Russian captivity. The former checkpoint guard at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in northern Ukraine was detained by Russian troops in March 2022, shortly after Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

He was finally released on Friday, one of 75 Ukrainians exchanged for 75 Russian prisoners of war.

The Ukrainian authorities released several photographs of Gorilyk, 40, on Wednesday to show the toll they say Russian captivity has taken on him.

“The condition of Roman and other Ukrainian prisoners of war evokes horror and associations with the darkest pages of human history – Nazi concentration death camps,” the Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War, a Ukrainian government body, said in a statement posted on Telegram alongside the photos.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said the prisoners returned to Ukraine in a “horrifying” state. “The torture by starvation is monstrous, the beatings and violence are sophisticated,” he said in a statement posted on X, accusing Russia of ignoring international human rights agreements.

“There are no Geneva Conventions anymore… Russia again thinks it can avoid being held accountable for massive war crimes,” he said.

Under the Geneva Conventions, the set of international laws that regulate armed conflict, prisoners of war must be treated humanely and with dignity, and must be provided with basic daily food rations that are “sufficient in quantity, quality and variety to keep prisoners of war in good health and to prevent loss of weight or the development of nutritional deficiencies.”

The Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War said Gorilyk was among 169 guards who were taken by the invading Russian forces and transported to Russia via Belarus. It said that 89 of these people are still being held captive, and that Moscow is using them in exchange for Russian servicemen captured in battle.

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