I was held captive by Russian troops in Ukraine and forced to record a farewell message for my daughter, Brit says POW

SICK Russian guards had a British POW record a farewell message to his daughter in a mock execution stunt.

John Harding59, was released after being captured while fighting for Ukraine and has now returned home, where he talks about the hell he endured.


John has spoken of his ordeal at the hands of the RussiansCredit: Dan Charity
John pictured with Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin


John pictured with Shaun Pinner and Aiden AslinCredit: Universal News and Sports

With John on the flight back were to the UK on Wednesday Shaun Pinner, Aiden Aslin, Dylan Healy and Andrew Hill.

The detainees were released in a surprise deal negotiated between the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and Russian president Vladimir Putin.

John, from Sunderland, was serving as a combat medic in the Ukrainian Armed Forces when he fell into Russian hands.

In addition to savage beatings, his captors played twisted psychological games with him.

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The father-of-two told the Daily Mail that at one point he was ordered to record a message because he was about to be executed by firing squad.

He said he was being held in a total of three prisons, including one he called “The Dark Side”, in Russian-occupied Donetsk, where he was repeatedly assaulted by regional police guards.

In the worst case scenario, a group of guards cackled as they strapped a tote bag over his head, tied his hands behind his back and released a 30-minute shove.

They punched, kicked and jumped on his body, nearly breaking his ribs and making him bleed when urinating.

He was also charged and convicted by a kangaroo court for war crimes, and received a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.

With tears streaming down his face, John told The Sun: “I thought, ‘I wish they would fucking kill me now’.

“That was the worst moment – the way they treated us was horrible. In my head I said to myself, ‘I’ve been hit harder by my sister’.

“Had I known how we would be treated before we surrendered, I would have stayed and set up a sniper’s nest and tried to take out a few before I was killed.

“The other inmates and I kept our spirits up by laughing at each other through our cells.

“We joked about how we thought our steak was cooked because we only ate bread.”

John had served in Ukraine as a medic with the 2nd Battalion of the Azov Regiment.

He surrendered and was captured in May after his unit ran out of ammunition while in the Azovstal Steelworks in the besieged port of Mariupol in Eastern Ukraine.

Aiden and Shaun, who were also captured in Mariupol, was sentenced to death by a Russian proxy court in Donetsk.

John was thrown on a bus and sat on it for three days eating cookies and dirty water while his prison was being prepared.

But on Tuesday, the inmates were told to collect their belongings. They were released at a Russian airport where they were met by Saudis who escorted them to the plane to Riyadh, along with five other foreigners, a group of bodyguards and a crew of three.

John has revealed the surreal moment when he saw Abramovich hand each of the men an iPhone 13 so they could call their family and let them know they were on their way home.

“I didn’t even notice it, but Shaun said it looked like him,” he told The Sun.

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“He went up to him on the plane and asked where he was from and Roman said ‘London’.

“Then Shaun said, ‘You really look like… Roman Abramovich‘ and he replied, ‘That’s because I am him, sir.’ He couldn’t believe it.

“I joked that Shaun is a West Ham fan and we all laughed.”


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