Chernihiv mayor urges Zelenskiy not to swap captured Russian pilots for Ukrainian PoWs

The mayor of the city of Chernihiv, where more than 100 civilians have been killed by Russian bombs, has appealed to Volodymyr Zelenskiy for captured Russian pilots to be imprisoned rather than swapped for Ukrainian prisoners of war.

Vladyslav Atroshenko made his emotional demand in response to the broadcast of an interview with Alexander Krasnoyartsev, a major in the Russian air force, who was shot down three weeks ago during a bombing sortie over the northern Ukrainian city.

Krasnoyartsev, whose navigator, Konstantin Krivolapa, was killed when the plane was downed, claimed to Ukrainian interrogators in an hour-long interview posted on social media that he had not known he was bombing residential areas of the city.

Atroshenko said in his televised appeal that the pilot was lying and that the citizens of Chernihiv would be opposed to any clemency being shown towards those involved in the bombing of his city.

He said: “I am addressing President Volodymyr Zelenskiy from all possible TV channels: Volodymyr Oleksandrovych, I am speaking on behalf of all Chernihiv residents.

“Please, do not rush to exchange military pilots, those scumbags. They lie when they say that they are given coordinates and that they do not see what they are bombing.

“They were destroying the civilian population, they were destroying Chernihiv residents in broad daylight, at low altitudes. Therefore it is not necessary to hurry [to exchange] these scum, these bastards. It is not necessary to hurry.”

Chernihiv is without water, gas or electricity after sustained bombing by artillery and Russian jets. Among a series of attacks on civilian targets, 10 people were killed two weeks ago while queueing for bread.

There have been a number of prisoner swaps arranged by Moscow and Kyiv since the start of the month.

Atroshenko, in reference to a video in which Krasnoyartsev was seen talking to his wife and mother on the telephone, said: “I do understand that the situation may require it [such trade], but we must bargain. There is a captured [pilot] Krasnoyartsev, I heard the interview he gave. I tell you honestly on behalf of all Chernihiv residents who died – he is lying.

“What a piece of shit. He is lying, he knew exactly where he was dropping 500kg of bombs. Let him stay here in a Ukrainian prison … He calls his children on the phone and asks how are they doing. Can you imagine? To his children in Moscow or wherever he’s calling. Why doesn’t he ask how are Chernihiv residents are doing?”

Krasnoyartsev, who was also involved in bombing missions in Syria, landed on the roof of a private house after parachuting out of his downed jet on 5 March. Once on the ground, he had hid in a barn but was discovered by an unarmed farmer on whom he repeatedly fired with his pistol, and killed.

He told his interrogator: “A man ran after me, tried to chase me. I don’t know, perhaps with a pitchfork or something else. I used weapons. Those actions, that you need to shoot back, run and hide are automatic. Such kind of a condition. Later, I reproached myself repeatedly – I used weapons.”

In the footage of the interrogations shared on social media, Krasnoyartsev is questioned by soldiers and in one film by Volodymyr Zolkin, a journalist and blogger who has conducted a number of interviews for broadcast with Russian prisoners.

During his call with his family, Krasnoyartsev asked after the health of his son, who had chickenpox, and repeatedly questioned his mother over whether he was on an official prisoner of war list.

Ukrainian interrogators questioned him over the name of his school and details about his childhood. When Krasnoyartsev asked why they were asking, the interrogators responded that Moscow was claiming that he was a Ukrainian actor playing the role of a downed pilot.

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