Last survived defender of Donetsk airport freed after almost two years' captivity (Photos)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has announced that Taras Kolodiy, the last survived from among the Ukrainian soldiers who defended Donetsk airport, also known as "cyborgs," has been freed after almost two years' captivity by Donbas militants.
"The SBU chief has just reported about the release of our 'cyborg' – Taras Kolodiy. He is free after almost two years in captivity," Poroshenko tweeted on Sunday, December 18.
The president thanked all those who had been engaged in Kolodiy's release.
Ukraine's representative in the Donbas Trilateral Contact Group's humanitarian subgroup, which is engaged in prisoners swaps, Iryna Gerashchenko provided details about the 'cyborg's' release.
"Taras Kolodiy is free now. Our dearest, courageous cyborg! He is safe now, being in Ukrainian territory. We thank the SBU, and all those who have been involved – the church, priests," she wrote on Facebook on Sunday.
The clergy have helped with the release of several dozen prisoners of war since the start of the war on Donbas, Gerashchenko added.
The release of Kolodiy was due to negotiations assisted by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, according to Bishop Clement of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), the Bishop of Irpin and Vicar of the Kyiv Diocese, who has participated in the process.
"Our priests are in all areas in Donetsk region. Therefore, they've succeeded in agreeing on the release of at least one Ukrainian soldier by Saint Nicholas' Day [observed by Ukrainian Orthodox Church members on December 19]. It hasn't been a swap. There was agreement on his release," he said.
The UOC Information Centre said that the release had become possible due to interceding by Metropolitan Onufriy, who is the current head of the UOC (Moscow Patriarchate).
The UOC's official website said that Poroshenko and Onufriy had agreed on joint coordination by the Ukrainian state and the UOC in issues related to the release of Ukrainian prisoners.
At the same time, coordinator of the Patriot Center for POW exchange and release, Oleh Kotenko, said that over 10 more Donetsk airport defenders were announced missing in action, according to TV Channel 112 Ukraine.
"Kolodiy was the last 'cyborg' whose whereabouts were known. We've got over 10 'cyborgs' who are missing and whose whereabouts we've been trying to determine. We hope they're still alive. Efforts to search for them are under way," he said.
Kotenko said that the release of Ukrainian POWs is slow because of obstacles created by the Russian side.
"It lasts for long, as there is a certain Russian side, which creates obstacles to the return of our POWs home," he said.
Gerashchenko added that the president, who was the first to have learnt this important piece of news from the head of the SBU Security Service, gave instructions that Taras Kolodiy should be taken to Kyiv's Feofaniya Clinical Hospital for medical treatment and rehabilitation.
The Ukrainian president later informed he had called Kolodiy to greet him after the release.
He also called his mother, Halyna Myroslavivna, to thank her for the son.
Kolodiy, 26, was born in the western city of Lviv. He was mobilized in August 2014. He served as a trooper of the 80th Airmobile Brigade in the town of Kostiantynivka in eastern Ukraine. Then he defended Donetsk airport and was captured by militants from the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" ("DPR").