Soldier whose division held hundreds of Ukrainian civilians hostage in cellar made Hero of Russia — Novaya Gazeta Europe
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Soldier whose division held hundreds of Ukrainian civilians hostage in cellar made Hero of Russia

Vladimir Putin and Chalym Chuldum-ool. Photo: Kremlin

Vladimir Putin and Chalym Chuldum-ool. Photo: Kremlin

Vladimir Putin has awarded the Russian Federation’s highest honorary title to a soldier whose division was accused of holding over 300 civilian residents of a Ukrainian village hostage in a school basement in the early weeks of the war, independent media outlet IStories reported on Thursday.

State-owned news agency TASS wrote that Chalym Chuldum-ool, who served in Ukraine as part of the Russian military’s 55th Guards Brigade, was awarded the Hero of Russia star on Thursday for “detecting five enemy vehicles” near a village in southern Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region in December, and “personally eliminating about 10 Ukrainian militants”.

However, the 55th Guards Brigade was stationed in the village of Yahidne in Ukraine’s northern Chernihiv region at the start of the Russian invasion, where, according to Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, over 300 civilians, among them 77 children, had been held in a school basement where Russian soldiers set up their headquarters for over a month, forcing civilians to act as “human shields”.

At least 10 people died in the basement, Venediktova said, and a further 17 were killed by the Russian military during their occupation of Yahidne. Surviving residents told The New York Times that the conditions in the basement were akin to a concentration camp and that the hostages had been packed so tightly together that there had not been enough oxygen to breathe normally.

Chuldum-ool, who was seated behind Putin during the Victory Day parade on Moscow’s Red Square on 9 May, won a primary to become a candidate for the ruling United Russia party in his home republic of Tuva earlier this week, independent media outlet Verstka reported, allowing him to stand in regional parliamentary elections in September.

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