Ukraine war: The horrifying story of Ukrainian taxi driver beaten, stunned and kept in a forest pit

·4-min read

The moment Mykhailo Orlovskyi was taken by Russian forces was captured on his own dashcam.

He can be seen being driven away by soldiers on top of an armoured vehicle, his arms in the air.

At this point, a Russian soldier was driving Mykhailo's car - which was capturing the arrest in real time.

"The first thing I thought about was how to survive. The second thing was that I was going to die," he told Sky News.

The images from his dashcam were later released in Russia and published online by a Russian journalist.

After his arrest, he describes how he was stripped of his clothes and glasses and taken to an area of thick woodland.

"They beat us in the forest, started interrogating us, then tied us up and threw us into a pit where they kept us for two days," he told us.

It was 7th March - and bitterly cold.

"They threw a jacket over me, which they then tied up. I was only wearing a jacket and sweatpants, and that was it. But thank God the jacket had at least a hood.

"At the bottom, cardboard was thrown into the pit, and there were also two boxes you could sit on."

Russia threatens NATO member and EU: All the unfolding events in the Ukraine war live

Mykhailo was a civilian taxi driver but had been helping the Ukrainian military as a volunteer.

After two days in the hole in the forest, he was flown by helicopter to a prison in Kursk, Russia.

"We were transferred from office to office, from interrogation to interrogation.

"We constantly had to sign documents, were interrogated, were beaten.

"Everything lasted about six hours. They took us to a separate room, where they beat us with boxing gloves on the kidneys, liver, ribs, neck, and legs.

"They also used a stun gun. They hit us so hard."

Read more:
Hit, hit, hit destroy: Russia's terrifying tactics

He describes how male and female prisoners all had their heads shaved, their blood samples, DNA and fingerprints taken.

"They took my phone and even my wedding ring," he says. "They took all my documents…passport, driver's licence. All that is still with them."

Nearly 500 Ukrainian civilians are currently in Russian jails.

Mykhailo was inside for four weeks in total before being swapped in a prisoner exchange in April.

During his time incarcerated, he was made to sing the Russian national anthem which was played on repeat.

"There was a radio, a speaker hung on the door. And when the anthem was played, and it played around 10-15 times a day, we had to line up and sing the anthem of the Russian Federation."

Mother's best birthday gift

Meanwhile in Ukraine, Mykhailo's family were sick with worry about what had happened to him. After two weeks, they finally found a Russian mugshot taken after his arrest that had been published online.

When Mykhailo learned he was to be swapped in a prisoner exchange he sobbed on the three-hour drive to the border. It was 10th April - his mother's birthday.

"I called her and said that everything is fine with me, that I am alive and healthy. I remember her tears of joy. She was happy that God would give her such a gift for her birthday."

Recalling this, he breaks down in tears and has to stop.

He eventually goes on: "A very difficult moment was when I was talking to my brother and he told me that there was a moment when he thought that I had already died, that I was no longer there. It's hard even now."

Still processing

Mykhailo has since returned to the scene where he was taken. His personal belongings were still lying on the ground - his glasses case, his AirPod headphones, his business cards.

He also found his Mercedes car - now completely burnt out but the serial number was still visible.

Without his car, he has lost his livelihood. It's clear starting from scratch again financially is weighing heavily on him.

That, coupled with the harrowing ordeal which it's clear he is still processing.

But he's managed to escape with an important message for the world on the horrors for Ukrainian civilians in Russian detention.