Friday, September 22, 2023

Spanish pensioner detained in Kherson by Russian troops released

Mariano Garcia Calatayud, the 73-year-old Valencian retiree detained in Ukraine, has been released after the remaining five days held by Russian troops at a police station in the city of Kherson. This has been confirmed to Digital Freedom Julio Suarez, the Spanish businessman with a son trapped in this city from the south of the country who had been working all week to get Mario, as they call him in Ukraine, released.

Mario is free. We have sent a person to pick it up“, Julio confirmed to LD after 6:00 p.m. this Thursday. The Valencian, a former official of the Carlet town council, had been arrested on Saturday after participating in the Kherson demonstration against the Russian invasion. Even though a Ukrainian journalist named Vitaly Bogdanov assures that the release has been possible thanks to the mediation of the Red Cross, this Spanish businessman denies the greatest: “Neither the Ministry of Foreign Affairs nor the Red Cross. All the steps have been taken by us.”

At the moment, this newspaper has not been able to contact Mariano, although Julio – who had already reported that he was alive in the early afternoon – assures that he is fine. According to the information that both he and his son Vitali would have received, the Valencian would have been held by the Russian army together with another citizen of Dutch origin. However, “taking into account the sensitivity of the situation”, the businessman asks for “prudence” and avoids talking about any other detail that could put this Spanish retiree back in the spotlight.

Spanish pensioner detained in Kherson by Russian troops released
Mariano García, in an image provided by À Punt NTC

In Ukraine since 2014

Mariano, who had a war veteran volunteer card, decided to settle in Ukraine eight years ago, amid the Crimean crisis. According to his relatives, he always remembered that his father had told him that during the Spanish Civil War many Valencian children were taken in by Ukrainian families, so, in 2014, he thought that the time had come to step forward and repay all the generosity that we Spaniards had received in the past.

Since then, she has not stopped reaching out to anyone who has needed her throughout the Humanitarian Center for Helping Refugees that he founded upon his arrival in the country. In Kherson, a strategic city on the shores of the Black Sea, he has made a great reputation for himself. Thanks to his career, he gets everything that his compatriots need: food, warm clothing, and even school supplies.

Since the Russian invasion began, Mariano has participated in all the protests that have been organized in the city to “combat propaganda and disinformation” promoted by Putin, whom he has dubbed “the lord of wars”. He was aware that this overexposure could end as it has finally ended. “They have told me that they will come for me because I am a Spanish war veteran who helps the Ukrainians, but I do not intend to leave. I knew what was coming“, he told El Español on February 27.


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