Ukrainian soldier surrenders to separatist militia because of the drunkenness of his colleagues, blared the headline in the pro-Kremlin internet newspaper Ukraina.ru. Lenta.ru, Argumenty i Fakty, Russian Defense Ministry’s web site Zvezda all featured this fake story claiming that Sergeant Taras Hapliak from Ukraine’s 24th mechanized brigade deserted his post and surrendered himself to Russian militants in the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR).
These stories appeared after a video of Hapliak being questioned by the LPR “people’s police” was published online. In the video, 24-year old Hapliak describes working conditions in the Ukrainian army which “forced him to surrender himself to the LNG” and says that Ukrainian soldiers “in a state of drunkenness open fire” on Russian militants.
Taras Hapiak is a real person and a sergeant in the Ukrainian army. According to the Ukrainian Security Service, in March of 2017 he was captured by LPR militants. Hapiak was freed in a prisoner exchange on December 27, 2017. After his release he related how he was forced to record the video under torture.
Hapiak said he was kept in a small basement room during his entire captivity. On the first day of his capture he was questioned by nine men, three were interrogators, the other six their security detail. They all kept their faces covered. Hapiak described beatings with rubber batons and the use of electric shock. When he refused to read a text his captors wanted to videotape, Hapiak says he was beaten.
Taras Hapiak spent 279 days in captivity with the Russian LNR militants. After he was freed in a prisoner exchange, he was able to identify 19 mercenaries from the military office of the LNR who are implicated in the torture and abuse of Ukrainian soldiers in occupied Donetsk and Luhansk prisons.