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Shukhov had been sentenced for high treason after confessing to surrendering to the Germans with the intention of betraying his country and returning from captivity to carry out a mission for the Germans. In reality, in 1942, when the entire army was surrounded on the Western front, Shukhov was part of a group rounded up in the forest by the Germans. After a day or two in captivity, he and four other men escaped and made their way through the forest back to their own army. Two were shot on the spot by a machine gunner and a third died from his wounds. Though Shukhov and the other surviving escapee told the truth, that they were escaped POWs, they were accused of concocting a cover story.