Vladimir Kozlovsky, an Israeli-Ukrainian citizen who was taken as a prisoner of war by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, was released on Thursday, according to Israeli media.
The 40-year-old was captured by the Luhansk Republic Army after his unit that was stationed in eastern Luhansk was caught in a barrage of heavy Russian artillery.
Kozlovsky was released by the separatist movement on Thursday to Russia and is expected to be allowed to return to Israel. He was reportedly released to the care of the Jewish community in Russia.
Russian media claimed that Kozlovsky cooperated with them in captivity and had been allowed to observe Jewish customs while held by the pro-Russian forces.
How Kozlovsky was captured by Russia
Kozlovsky, who has been living in Ukraine for several years with his wife and child, said he was detained by Ukrainian authorities and conscripted, despite receiving a diplomatic certificate allowing him to leave the war-torn country.
Vladimir Kozlovsky, an Israeli citizen seemed to GET OFF EASY when he surrendered after being allegedly TAKEN in to fight AGAINST his will, Russia is playing a very intriguing game with Israel pic.twitter.com/Ffm71kkja1— Reggie Meezer (@ReggieMeezer) August 25, 2022
“I met with the Israeli consulate, they gave me a certificate so that I could leave the country and they [Ukrainian authorities] detained me at the border,” he recalled in a video released by the Luhansk Republic Military in June.
In the video, Kozlovsky displayed his Israeli ID card and spoke of the events leading up to his capture.
“We had a weapon, but we did not know how to use it... They did not train us to fight and sent us to the battlefield,” Kozlovsky said. “They also did not tell us that we were going to fight. We thought we would stay in western Ukraine, until we reached the Luhansk region.
The Ukrainian military "did not train us to fight and sent us to the battlefield"Israeli-Ukrainian POW Vladimir Kozlovsky
“We received messages from the Russians that it was better for us to surrender,” he continued. “We soldiers also talked about it before, but the commanders tried to prevent these conversations. We were told that if we surrender, we will be tortured to death. It is better not to surrender alive.”
The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem and Israel’s Embassy in Moscow wrote to Russian authorities and held talks with them after hearing of the arrest.
Israelis, mercenaries in the Russia-Ukraine War
Kozlovsky is not the first Israeli-Ukrainian to have been detained by Russia. In early March, a merchant sailor with Israeli-Ukrainian dual citizenship was detained by the Russian Navy in the Black Sea as his ship was sailing for Romania.
In May, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova claimed that “Israeli mercenaries” were “fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with the Azov militants,” likely referencing the video. Russia refers to foreign fighters as mercenaries in its official statements and does not recognize them as legitimate combatants.
Michael Starr contributed to this report.