A prominent Ukrainian medic whose cadres were smuggled out of besieged Mariupol has been freed by Russian forces three months after she was captured on the streets of the city.
Yulia Paevskaya is known in Ukraine as Tyra, the alias she chose in the video game World of Warcraft.
Using a body camera, she recorded 256 gigabytes of her team’s efforts in two weeks to rescue the wounded, including Russian and Ukrainian soldiers.
She gave the clips to the Associated Press team, the last international journalists in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, one of whom escaped on March 15 with her implanted in a tampon.
Taira and her colleague were taken prisoner by Russian forces on March 16, the same day that Russian aircraft struck a theater in the city center, killing about 600 people, according to the AP investigation.
“It was such a great feeling of relief. These are such ordinary words that I don’t even know what to say, ”said her husband Vadim Puzanov.
Mr. Puzanov said he was on the phone with Tyra, who was on her way to a Kyiv hospital, and feared for her health.
At first, the family remained silent, hoping that negotiations would take their course.
But AP spoke to him before releasing the bootleg videos that ended up garnering millions of viewers around the world, including on some of the biggest networks in Europe and the United States.
Mr. Puzanov expressed gratitude for the report, which showed that Taira was trying to rescue Russian soldiers as well as Ukrainian civilians.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the release of Taira in a nationwide appeal.
“I am grateful to everyone who worked for this result. Tyra is already at home. We will continue to work to free everyone,” he said.
Hundreds of prominent Ukrainians were abducted or taken prisoner, including local officials, journalists, activists and human rights activists.
Russia has presented Taira as working for the nationalist Azov Battalion, in line with Moscow’s claim that it is trying to “denazify” Ukraine.
But the AP found no such evidence, and friends and colleagues said it had no connection to Azov, which made its last stand at the Mariupol steel plant before hundreds of its fighters were captured or killed.
The footage is a testament to her efforts to rescue the wounded on both sides.
A video taken on March 10 shows a Ukrainian soldier roughly pulling two Russian soldiers out of an ambulance.
One is in a wheelchair. The other is on his knees, hands tied behind his back, with an obvious leg injury. Their eyes are covered with winter hats, and they have white bandages on their hands.
A Ukrainian soldier swears at one of them. “Calm down, calm down,” Tyra tells him.
The woman asks her, “Are you going to treat the Russians?”
“They won’t be so kind to us,” she replies. “But I couldn’t do otherwise. They are prisoners of war.”
Tyra was a participant in the “Ukrainian Invictus Games” for war veterans, where she had to compete in archery and swimming. Invictus said she was a military medic from 2018 to 2020 but has since been discharged.
In 2021, she got a body camera to film a Netflix documentary about the inspirational figures created by the Duke of Sussex, who founded Invictus Games. But when Russian troops invaded, she instead used it to film scenes with injured civilians and soldiers.