“Every minute was a challenge because it could have been my last”

NIn early April, a car with civilians leaving Melitopol passed a Russian checkpoint in Vasilivka, an occupied town in Zaporozhye, when a Russian soldier approached the vehicle and saw a teenage boy checking something on his cell phone.

“What are you doing, filming me?” asked the soldier before pulling his cell phone out of the car. “Should I shoot him now or smash his phone?” He pointed the gun at the boy and shouted.

The man dragged the young man to a nearby yard where Russian troops were stationed, gagging and scaring the occupants of the car.

After an hour of checking his identity, the Russian soldiers realized he was Vladislav Buryak, one of the highest Ukrainian officials in the region, Ole Buryak, head of the state administration of Zaporizhzhya district.

For the next 90 days, the 16-year-old was held in Russian captivity, the newspaper said. Kyiv Independent, was locked in a small room where he heard the screams of Ukrainian prisoners of war being tortured by Russian soldiers. He saw some of them die after hours of torture and was forced to clean up the blood-soaked place.

“Every minute was a very tough challenge because every minute could have been my last,” the boy said during an interview with his father.

Vladislav Buriak com o by Ole Buriak© Social Networks Reproduction

Vladislav is not the only Ukrainian minor taken into Russian captivity since Russia’s war began on February 24: according to Oleksandr Staruk, governor of Zaporizhia, the Russians captured five minors in the city, two of them at the end of July.

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A total of 203 children have been reported missing in Ukraine since early August, most of them in hotspots. Official data indicates that the Russian invasion has killed at least 358 children as of August 4, and the number is estimated to be higher, given the absence of casualties in Russian-occupied territories and areas where wars are ongoing.

Amidst all of Russia’s atrocities against Ukrainian children, Buriak’s story has a happy ending: he was released on July 7.

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