A total of 959 Ukrainian troops previously holed up in a steel plant in Mariupol have surrendered this week, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a Wednesday morning briefing. Kiev expects them to be exchanged, while prosecutors in Russia are looking at the possibility of bringing many to trial.
The number of captives has increased by 694 over the last 24 hours, military spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said. Among them were 80 with injuries, of which 51 received treatment at a hospital provided by the Russian-allied Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), the official said.
The Azovstal plant was the last bastion of Ukrainian forces in Mariupol, a key port city claimed by the DPR as part of its territory. Russian and allied troops declined to storm the massive site and instead blockaded it.
Kiev confirmed it ordered the troops to surrender, though President Volodymyr Zelensky described it as an evacuation.
“The operation to rescue the defenders of Mariupol was initiated by our military and our intelligence officers with the goal to return them home. The work continues and this work requires tact and time,” he said.
The Russian Defense Ministry released footage on Wednesday showing unarmed Ukrainian troops leaving Azovstal. Russian soldiers searched them before allowing them to leave by bus or ambulance, the video shows. Transport columns were escorted by military vehicles. The Ukrainian troops are understood to be held in custody by the DPR where military tribunals and lengthy prison sentences await…
Kiev is hoping to exchange the captured troops with Russian POWs, however Moscow has stated any member belonging to the Nazi Azov battalions will not be exchanged. There are currently at least 450 Azov members who surrendered at Azovstal, including a US (Eric Olsen) and Canadian (Trevor Cadieu) generals, 4 NATO officers (Turkish, French and two British).