The International Committee of the Red Cross said that the registration of Ukrainian prisoners of war, including wounded soldiers, began on Tuesday under an agreement between Russia and Ukraine.
The Geneva-based humanitarian agency, which has experience working with prisoners of war and prisoner exchanges, said, however, that its team did not transport the fighters to “where they are held” – which was not specified.
Ukrainian fighters who came out of the destroyed metallurgical plant “Azovstal” after their military ordered to leave the last stronghold of resistance in the now leveled port city, an uncertain fate awaits. Some were taken by Russians to a former colony in Moscow-controlled separatist-held territory.
While Ukraine has said it hopes to return soldiers as part of an exchange of prisoners, Russia has threatened to prosecute some of them for war crimes.
The Red Cross referred to the rules of the Geneva Conventions, which should allow organizations to interrogate prisoners of war “without witnesses” and that visits with them should not be “unduly restricted.”
The organization does not specify how many prisoners of war were involved.
It is also unclear how many fighters are left at the plant. Earlier, Russia estimated that it was fighting about 2,000 troops at a coastal plant.
Denis Pushylin, a senior Russian-backed separatist official in the Mariupol region, said those Ukrainian servicemen in need of medical care had been hospitalized and others in temporary detention facilities. He also claimed that representatives of the Red Cross were allowed to inspect the detention center, but this could not be verified immediately.
Earlier, Amnesty International said that the Red Cross should immediately give access to the surrendered Mariupol fighters. Amnesty Deputy Director for the Region Denis Kryvasheev refers to the illegal shootings allegedly carried out by Russian forces in Ukraine, and said that Azovstal defenders “should not expect the same fate.”
Despite the failure in Mariupol, Ukraine’s confidence is growing after the fight against the Russian offensive has virtually stopped and forced Moscow to withdraw from Kiev and narrow its military goals.
Adviser to President Vladimir Zelensky Mikhail Podalak, who took part in several rounds of talks with Russia, said on Twitter on Thursday that at this stage “do not offer us a ceasefire – it is impossible without a complete withdrawal of Russian troops.”
“Until Russia is ready to completely liberate the occupied territories, our negotiating team is weapons, sanctions and money,” he tweeted.
The Ukrainian military said at a morning briefing on Thursday that Russian troops were still continuing the offensive on various sections of the front in the east, but were fighting back successfully.
The Ukrainian military did not mention Mariupol at a morning briefing on Thursday, saying only that Russian troops were still continuing the offensive on various sections of the front in the east, but were successfully fighting back.
In the eastern Donbas, which was the center of recent fighting when Russian forces in the offensive faced strong resistance from Ukraine, four civilians were killed in a Russian bombing in the city of Severodonetsk, Luhansk Governor Sergei Gaidai said. Three other civilians were injured in Wednesday’s attack, and shelling continued until early Thursday, Haidai said.
The governor of the Kursk province said that a truck driver was killed and several other civilians were injured in a shelling from Ukraine on the Russian side of the border. Separatist authorities in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine said two civilians had been killed and five wounded in Ukrainian shelling over the past 24 hours.
Meanwhile, at Ukraine’s first war crimes trial on Wednesday, a captured Russian soldier pleaded guilty to killing a civilian and faces up to life in prison.
The plant was the only thing that prevented Russia from declaring a complete capture of Mariupol. Its fall will make Mariupol the largest Ukrainian city to be seized by Moscow forces, giving Putin a boost in a war where many of his plans have gone awry.
Military analysts, however, said the capture of the city at this point would be more symbolic than anything else, as Mariupol is already effectively under Moscow’s control and most of Russia’s forces, which have been shackled by protracted fighting, have already left.
The video shows Ukrainian fighters carrying their wounded on stretchers and searching them, and then taking them away in buses accompanied by military equipment with the pro-Kremlin “Z” sign.
The United States has gathered intelligence showing that some Russian officials are concerned that Kremlin forces in Mariupol are abusing, including beating up city officials, exposing them to electric shocks and looting homes, according to a U.S. official familiar with the findings.
Russian officials are concerned that the abuses will further inspire residents to resist the occupation and that such treatment contradicts Russia’s claims that its military has released Russian-speakers, according to an official who is not authorized to comment.
In the case of war crimes in Kiev, a Russian sergeant. Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old soldier of the tank unit, pleaded guilty to shooting an unarmed 62-year-old Ukrainian in the head through the car window in the first days of the war. The Prosecutor General of Ukraine said that about 40 more cases of war crimes are being prepared.
On the diplomatic front, Finland and Sweden could join NATO in a matter of months, although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s objections threaten to disrupt the situation. Turkey accuses the two countries of sheltering Kurdish militants and others it considers a threat to its security.
Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan’s foreign policy adviser and spokesman, said there would be “no progress” on membership applications unless Turkey’s concerns were resolved. Each of NATO’s 30 countries has an effective veto over new members.
The defenders of Mariupol gloomily clung to the metallurgical plant for several months and against the odds, not allowing Russia to complete the occupation of the city and its port.
Mariupol has been a target of Russians since the beginning, when Moscow sought to open a land corridor from its territory to the Crimean peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.
The city – with a pre-war population of about 430,000, now shrunk by about three-quarters – has been largely reduced to rubble by relentless bombing, and Ukraine says more than 20,000 civilians have been killed.
For Ukraine, the order to surrender to the fighters may leave the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky open to accusations that he left the troops he called heroes.
“Zelensky may face unpleasant questions,” said Vladimir Fesenko, who heads the independent think tank Penta in Kiev. “There were voices of discontent and accusations of betrayal of Ukrainian soldiers.”
He warned that the expected exchange of prisoners could also fail.
Russia’s main federal investigative body has said it intends to interrogate soldiers who appear to be “identifying nationalists” and determine whether they were involved in crimes against civilians.
Russia’s chief prosecutor has also asked the country’s Supreme Court to recognize the Azov Ukrainian Regiment, a terrorist organization among the Azovstal garrison. The regiment has its roots in the far right.
The Russian parliament was supposed to consider a resolution banning the exchange of any fighters of the Azov Regiment, but did not take up the issue on Wednesday.
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