Leonid Paktishev: Russian soldier's family only found out he was in Ukraine after POW video

Ukrainian officials are urging family members of captured Russian troops to voice their opposition to Russia's involvement in war


                            Leonid Paktishev: Russian soldier's family only found out he was in Ukraine after POW video
Many Russian soldiers have died in the invasion (Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
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Ukrainian officials have published several videos in a Telegram channel called 'Find Your Own', urging family members of captured Russian troops to contact them and to voice their opposition to Russia's involvement in the war. In one of the videos published on Sunday, February 27, a visibly injured Russian soldier identifies himself as Leonid Paktishev, the commander of a sniper unit based in the Rostov region. 

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The video of Paktishev, a native of the small town of Mezdhurechenskiy in western Siberia, led to an outcry from his family as they were shocked to learn that he was involved in Russia's invasion of Ukraine and his loved ones are angry that he had been captured. "I was sent the video of my brother captured at 2 am last night. I was completely shocked. I had no idea that he was fighting in there," said Yelena Polivtseva, the sister of Paktishev. "I knew Leonid was in the military, but I had no idea that he was sent to Ukraine. I don’t think he would have been aware of it either."

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Paktishev's sister said she is not competent to judge her brother's involvement in Russia's invasion of Ukraine, adding she hoped the fighting would end. "No one needs this, not Ukraine and not Russia. I believe we can come to an agreement through peaceful means so that our sons, brothers and husbands don’t die." Polivtseva in an interview with Guardian said she sent Paktishev a birthday message on social media on Thursday, the day the invasion began. "I saw he was not online and got a bit worried then. Now am so so worried, I haven’t slept all night, my children are crying, our mother is in a critical state."

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Another close family member of Paktishev expressed anger over the relative’s involvement in the war in Ukraine. The unidentified family member said, "How else can you feel? Young boys are thrown like cannon fodder, and most importantly for what?! For palaces in Gelendzhik?" referring to the palatial mansion on the Black Sea that is said to be linked to Russia President Vladimir Putin.The family member said he received an overnight message on their Vkontakte social media page informing them about the capture, with the video that was circulating online attached.

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The message of the video is as follows: "Good evening, I would like to say hi from the Ukrainian people. I would like to make you happy that a close person to you is still alive. Go out and protest, overthrow your government before we bury all in Ukrainian soil. Be damned and burn in hell. Glory to Ukraine." The Ukrainian ministry of defence meanwhile has set up a hotline for the family members of captured Russian soldiers called 'Come Back Alive from Ukraine', which reportedly received "hundreds of calls" since the start of the invasion.

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Dmitry Selyanin, another relative of Paktishev, said he had been in a state of disbelief ever since he found out about his cousin’s capture. Selyanin said, "He is a sniper and snipers aren’t loved by the enemy. In the video we don’t get to see the other snipers in his group, we don’t know what happened to them. So we can only guess what they will do to Leonid." Selyanin also said his family was approached by Russian authorities. "They asked for some of the details about him – nothing special," he said.

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An adviser to the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said on Saturday, February 26, that about 3,500 Russian soldiers had been killed or injured so far in Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Russia has so far not commented on the videos released and has also revealed little information about the state of its soldiers fighting in Ukraine. The Russian ministry of defence for the first time admitted that there were "dead and wounded soldiers amongst our comrade[s]" on Sunday, February 27. Russian ministry also added that "the number of destroyed [Ukrainian] nationalists by far outweigh" the number of Russian casualties.

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