ALEXANDER STASHEWSKI and KIYRAN McKILLAN
Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) – Hundreds of other Ukrainian fighters standing at a bombed steel plant in Mariupol have surrendered, bringing the total to more than 1,700, Russia said Thursday amid international fears that the Kremlin would accept repression against prisoners.
The Red Cross has registered hundreds of servicemen as prisoners of war in a step towards ensuring humane treatment of them under the Geneva Conventions.
Meanwhile, at the first war crimes trial in Ukraine, a captured Russian soldier testified that he had shot an unarmed civilian in the head on the officer’s orders and asked the victim’s widow to forgive him. Earlier this week, the soldier pleaded guilty, but prosecutors presented evidence against him under Ukrainian law.
It also seemed that more US aid was going to Ukraine when the Senate overwhelmingly approved a $ 40 billion military and economic aid package for the country and its allies. The House of Representatives voted for it last week. President Joe Biden’s quick signature was assured.
“Help is coming, really significant help. Aid that could make sure the Ukrainians win, ”said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
In Mariupol, a nearly three-month siege that turned a strategic port city into a symbol of the horrors of war was coming to an end, as militants of the last bastion of resistance continued to leave the Azovstal metallurgical plant to save them. lives.
The Russian military said 1,730 Ukrainian servicemen had surrendered at the steel plant since Monday. At least some of them were taken by the Russians to a former colony in Moscow-backed separatist-held territory. A separatist spokesman said others had been hospitalized.
It was not clear how many fighters remained in the maze of tunnels and bunkers at the plant. Russia has estimated in recent weeks that it has fought about 2,000 troops in metallurgical plants.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it had registered hundreds of prisoners of war from the plant under an agreement between Russia and Ukraine. It does not say whether he visited the prisoners.
While Ukraine has said it hopes to return soldiers as part of an exchange of prisoners, Russian authorities are threatening to investigate some war crimes and bring them to justice, calling them “Nazis” and criminals.
The defense of the metallurgical plant was led by the Ukrainian Azov Regiment, whose far-right sources were seized by the Kremlin in an effort to declare its invasion a fight against Nazi influence in Ukraine.
These threats and accusations raised concerns about the fate of the captured fighters.
Amnesty International has demanded that the Red Cross gain access to troops, citing illegal shootings by Russian troops in Ukraine and saying Azovstal defenders “should not expect the same fate.”
The devastation of the plant would allow Russia to claim full control of Mariupol, a long-sought victory but largely symbolic at the moment, as the city is already effectively under Moscow’s control, and military analysts say most of the Russian forces that were bound by protracted battles are already gone.
However, this would have been a clear victory in the war, as a result of which Moscow suffered a series of setbacks in the face of unexpectedly fierce Ukrainian resistance. Kiev troops, backed by Western weapons, thwarted Russia’s original goal of storming the capital and tied Moscow’s forces to the Donbass, an eastern industrial region captured by President Vladimir Putin.
The surprising success of Ukrainian troops has strengthened Kyiv’s confidence, and a senior official said on Thursday.
Adviser to the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky Mikhail Podalak, who participated in several rounds of talks with Russia, said on Twitter to Moscow: “Do not offer us a ceasefire – it is impossible without the complete withdrawal of Russian troops.”
“Until Russia is ready to completely liberate the occupied territories, our negotiating team is weapons, sanctions and money,” he wrote.
Russia, however, has signaled its intention to include or at least maintain influence in the areas occupied by its forces.
This week, Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnulin visited Kherson and Zaporizhia regions, which are under Russian control, shortly after the invasion began in February. Russian news agencies quote him that the regions will be part of “our Russian family.”
In addition, the head of the Kherson region Vladimir Saldo appeared in a video in the Telegram that Kherson “will become a subject of the Russian Federation.”
Sweden and Finland, fearing that Putin’s ambitions go beyond Ukraine, applied for NATO membership and protection from Russia this week, although the process was threatened by NATO members.
Turkey has accused the two northern countries of sheltering or otherwise supporting Kurdish militants and others it considers a threat to its security. Each of NATO’s 30 countries has an effective veto over new members.
“We have told our respective friends that we will say ‘no’ to the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO, and we will continue to follow this path,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a video released Thursday.
As for other developments, General Mark Millie, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke by phone with his Russian counterpart on Thursday for the first time since the start of the war, and they agreed to keep the lines open, the Pentagon said. .
On the battlefield, the Ukrainian military said that Russian troops were advancing on various sections of the front in the Donbass, but were repulsed. The governor of Luhansk region said that four civilians were killed in the Russian shelling, and separatist authorities in Donetsk said that two were killed in the Ukrainian shelling.
The governor of the Kursk province said that a truck driver was killed in the shelling from Ukraine on the Russian side of the border.
Sergeant at the war crimes trial in Kyiv. Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old soldier of a Russian tank unit, told the court that he had shot 62-year-old Ukrainian citizen Alyaksandr Shelipau in the head on the officer’s orders.
Shishimarin said he did not obey the first order, but felt he had no choice but to obey when repeated by another officer. He said he was told that the man could locate the Ukrainian forces.
The prosecutor denied that Shishimarin had acted on the order, saying that the instruction did not come from the commander-in-chief.
Shishimarin apologized to the victim’s widow, Ekaterina Shelipova, who said that in the first days of the Russian invasion she saw her husband shot near the house.
She told the court that she believes that Shishimarin deserves life imprisonment, as much as possible, but will not mind if he is exchanged in exchange for defenders of the plant “Azovstal”.
McQueen reported from Lviv. Associated Press journalists Yuras Karmanov from Lviv, Andrea Rosa in Kharkiv, Aamer Madhani in Washington and other AP staff around the world.
Follow the coverage of the war in Ukraine in the AP: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine