Dec 15, 2022
Freed American From Russian Custody Speaks Out Transcript
American Suedi Murekezi who was freed from Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine, speaks exclusively with ABC News about his ordeal. Read the transcript here.
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… war in Ukraine, and tonight the ABC News exclusive here. This evening, our team reporting on a dramatic rescue mission. An American freed in a prisoner swap after being held in Russian-occupied territory. The man now hoping to soon head home to Minnesota, describing what he says the Russians did to him, and the screams he could hear not far from where he was being held. ABC’s Tom Soufi Burridge in Ukraine again tonight.
Tom Soufi Burridge (00:23):
American Suedi Murekezi walking out of Russian-controlled territory with just a small bag of belongings, but tonight he’s free. “Glory to Ukraine and happy liberation,” says an officer from Ukrainian military intelligence who got him out.
Suedi Murekezi (00:39):
Tom Soufi Burridge (00:40):
It’s Tom from ABC News.
Our team given exclusive access inside the rescue mission. After weeks of delicate negotiations, one man from Minnesota is heading home in time for Christmas.
Suedi Murekezi (00:52):
I’m in Ukrainian Lion, so it’s quite overwhelming.
Tom Soufi Burridge (00:56):
Suedi Murekezi (00:57):
Tom Soufi Burridge (00:58):
Suedi Murekezi (00:58):
Quite a relief. Yes.
Tom Soufi Burridge (01:00):
Earlier, our team in a convoy with the Ukrainians driving towards the front lines. We’re heading away from Ukrainian-controlled territory towards Russian-controlled land through the gray zone, effectively no man’s land, and the front lines, and there’s effectively a two-hour window, a ceasefire within which the exchange has to be made. You’re just about to go in and get Suedi out. How complicated are these missions? [inaudible 00:01:25] saying 64 Ukrainian prisoners part of a swap. With Suedi allowed out of Russian-controlled territory too. Suedi had left the US to live and work in southern Ukraine in 2020. When Putin invaded, he joined the protests in his home city of Kherson, but he was later arrested. And he says, when the Russians discovered pictures of him formally serving in the US Air Force, he was tortured.
Suedi Murekezi (01:50):
They interrogated me, punched me in the face, and then a few days later, used electricity, punched me in the stomach. But that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part for me was just hearing other people screaming, hearing women screaming, women being tortured. It was just crazy.
Tom Soufi Burridge (02:10):
The Russians released Suedi from prison several weeks ago, but he says he didn’t have a passport and that’s why he couldn’t leave Russian-held land until the Ukrainians got him out today day. Tonight, Suedi Murekezi is in Kyiv. The Ukrainians will surely want to ask him about his time in Russian-controlled territory. He told me he’s looking forward to seeing his family, having a hot shower, and he’s craving a peanut butter sandwich. David.
Hopefully a very safe trip home for him. Tom Soufi Burridge again tonight. Thank you, Tom.