American Suedi Murekezi has just been freed from Russian-controlled territory by a team from Ukraine’s military intelligence and is now being driven to Kyiv.
ABC News followed a military convoy into the war’s grey zone just outside Zaphorizhia in southern Ukraine. A two-hour ceasefire was agreed to in the area, starting at midday local time, so that a swap involving dozens of prisoners of war could go ahead. Murekezi was brought out of Russian-controlled territory as part of that exchange.
Suedi had been arrested by the Russian-controlled authorities and spent weeks in a basement, where he said he was tortured. He also spent three months in a prison in Donetsk city. He was later released by the Russians, but he was without his U.S. passport and was effectively trapped in Russian-controlled territory, living in the main city of Donetsk.
In an exclusive interview with ABC News in the grey zone, just after he was brought out of Russian-controlled territory, Murekezi said he felt “trapped” in Donetsk and lived under intense uncertainty about his future and what would happen to him.
He said he was relieved and happy to be back in Ukrainian-controlled territory, a free man in the country where he has lived for years.
Clutching a Ukrainian flag, which he was gifted by military intelligence officers, Suedi said he had been subject to electric shocks and had been beaten by his captors earlier in the war, when he was held in a basement, which he described as a “torture chamber."
He said the Russians accused him of being a member of the CIA. He said he and the other Americans with whom he was held were given only minimal food and water. When I asked Murekezi what he was looking forward to most when he gets back to his home in Minnesota, he said “a peanut butter sandwich."
ABC News' Dada Jovanovic, Natalia Kushniir and Kuba Kaminski contributed to this report.