Live updates: Russia’s war in Ukraine


Damage to the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, Ukraine on Friday, May 27.
Damage to the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, Ukraine on Friday, May 27 (Leon Klein/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Two wives and a friend of the Ukrainian troops who were captured or missing by Russian forces after defending the Azovstal plant in a long siege told CNN they had little or no information about the whereabouts of their loved ones.

“I have not been in contact with my husband or received any information about him recently,” said Anna Ivleeva, the wife of Anton, a seriously wounded marine in Azovstal. “The last time we spoke was on April 13. After that his brothers in arms texted me that he was still alive.”

Ivleva said Ukrainian government officials have been in touch, but added that there was “no information” about where the Azovstal fighters were being held and under what circumstances. She clings to hope that her husband is alive, even if he is in captivity.

“We all — families, wives and mothers of the Marines — hold on to each other, and we’re always in touch with each other 24/7,” she said. “We always share whatever news is available, we are like family.”

The besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol fell under full Russian control earlier this month with the surrender of Azovstal, the city’s last Ukrainian defense stronghold. It is unclear how many Ukrainian troops are now held by Russia, but the Russian military has claimed that more than 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers have surrendered there. Russian government propaganda has demonized Azovstal defenders as “Nazis”, raising serious concerns about how they will be treated in captivity.

A woman named Yana helped organize events in Kyiv to support the Azovstal fighters. Boyfriend of the Marines was in Azovstal. She spoke on condition of anonymity, citing security concerns.

“I haven’t heard from him or anything about him,” she said. “The last time we were in contact was on May 11.”

She said the Ukrainian government had not provided any information about her boyfriend’s whereabouts.

“The ICRC has called my friend’s mother [the International Committee of the Red Cross]She said, “I don’t remember when exactly. They just told her he’s alive, that’s it.”

The ICRC has been recording fighters leaving the Azovstal plant since 17 May – in part to help prisoners of war keep in touch with their families. The organization has been operating in Ukraine since 2014, when the war began in the Ukrainian Donbass region.

Another wife of an Azovstal defender, Titiana, said that her husband managed to call her from an unknown number after the surrender and said that some of his comrades were being held in a town in the separatist-held Donetsk region. CNN agreed not to report her nickname for the same reasons.

“His voice was calm and confident,” she said. “He said the conditions they were being held in were good. He said it might be possible in the future that they would be allowed to receive some packages.”

Tetiana said she spoke with her husband for about 10 minutes, and that her husband said he would try to call again.

“That’s it, no more calls or news,” she said.