Israel’s Foreign Ministry confirmed on Thursday that an Israeli citizen fighting on behalf of Ukraine had been taken captive by pro-Russian forces in the Moscow-controlled Luhansk region.
After a video of Vladimir Kozlovsky, purportedly filmed in captivity and identifying himself as Israeli, began circulating on social media, the Foreign Ministry said it was aware of the case and was handling the situation.
In the video, Kozlovsky — who has been living in Ukraine for many years — is seen displaying his Israeli ID card and identifying himself as a signal operator in the Ukrainian intelligence forces. The video was distributed with a watermark associated with the Luhansk pro-Russian separatists.
In comments apparently forced out of him by his captors, Kozlovsky said he tried to exit Ukraine after the Russian invasion through the border with Slovakia, after Israeli consular officials handed him a document allowing him to leave, but that border officials stopped him and recruited him to the military, while letting his wife and child leave.
Close to 30,000 Ukrainians have entered Israel since the start of the war, many of them Israeli citizens. In the early weeks of the conflict, consular officials worked around the clock to ensure the safe passage of as many Israelis in Ukraine as possible.
After being stationed in Luhansk with Ukrainian soldiers, Kozlovsky said his force was bombarded with artillery and he was taken captive after his commanders fled.
“We had weapons but we didn’t know how to use them,” he said. “They didn’t train us and sent us to the battlefield without telling us we were going to fight. They threw us like cannon fodder.”
Circulating coerced footage of prisoners of war — in particular those in which they are humiliated or forced to divulge identifying information — violates the Geneva Conventions, the statutes that aim to provide a framework for humanitarian law in conflict.
On Wednesday, Ukraine said that 144 of its soldiers who had been taken captive by Russia were freed in a prisoner swap. Moscow and Kyiv have exchanged prisoners several times since Russia invaded on February 24; the most recent previous exchange took place on Tuesday and involved 17 Ukrainian prisoners.
There are no clear figures on how many captives Russia or Ukraine have taken in the four months since fighting broke out.
Earlier this month, two British and one Moroccan citizen were sentenced to death by separatist forces that captured them during fighting in eastern Ukraine. The court in the Donetsk People’s Republic sentenced them to death by firing squad after convicting them of terrorism and trying to overturn constitutional order.
Agencies contributed to this report.