KYIV, Ukraine ( Associated Press) — Hundreds more Ukrainian fighters who made their stand inside Mariupol’s bombed-out steel plant have surrendered, raising the total to more than 1,700, Russia said Thursday, amid international fears about Kremlin prisoners. will retaliate against
The Red Cross registered hundreds of soldiers as prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions in a move to ensure their humane treatment.
Meanwhile, in the first war crimes trial conducted by Ukraine, a captured Russian soldier testified that he shot an unarmed civilian in the head on the orders of an officer and asked the victim’s widow to forgive him. The soldier pleaded guilty earlier this week, but prosecutors presented evidence against him in accordance with Ukrainian law.
In addition, more US aid appeared on Ukraine’s way after the Senate overwhelmingly approved a $40 billion package of military and economic aid for the country and its allies. The House voted for it last week. President Joe Biden’s quick signature was certain.
“Help is on the way, really important help. Help that can make sure the Ukrainians come out victorious,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
At Mariupol, the nearly three-month siege that turned the strategic port city into a symbol of the horrors of war came to an end as fighters in the last bastion of resistance continued to leave the Azovstal Steel Plant on orders from above to protect their . life.
The Russian military said 1,730 Ukrainian soldiers at the steelworks had surrendered since Monday. At least some were taken by the Russians to a former penal colony in an area controlled by Moscow-backed separatists. A separatist official said others have been admitted to the hospital.
It was not clear how many fighters were left in the maze of tunnels and bunkers at the plant. In recent weeks Russia has estimated it is battling around 2,000 soldiers at the steelworks.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it had registered hundreds of POWs from the plant under an agreement between Russia and Ukraine. It did not say whether he had met the prisoners.
While Ukraine said it hoped to bring the soldiers back in a prisoner swap, Russian officials threatened to investigate some for war crimes and prosecute them, branding them “Nazis” and criminals. Is.
The defense of the steel mill is led by Ukraine’s Azov Regiment, whose far-right origins have been confiscated by the Kremlin as part of an effort to cast its invasion as a fight against Nazi influence in Ukraine.
Those threats and accusations have raised fears about the fate of the captured fighters.
Amnesty International had pushed for the Red Cross to grant access to troops, citing alleged lawless executions by Russian forces in Ukraine and saying that Azovstal defenders “should not meet the same fate.”
The evacuation of the plant would allow Russia to claim full control of Mariupol, a long-sought victory but at this point of largely symbolic significance as the city was already effectively a part of Moscow. is under control and military analysts say most of the Russian forces that were bound by the drawn-out fighting have already left.
Still, it would be a clear victory in a war that has seen Moscow suffer several setbacks in the face of unexpectedly harsh Ukrainian resistance. Kyiv’s army with Western weapons thwarted Russia’s initial goal of attacking the capital and has tied up Moscow’s military in the Donbass, the eastern industrial region that President Vladimir Putin has set his sights on capturing.
The surprise success of Ukraine’s troops has boosted Kyiv’s confidence, and a senior official reflected on Thursday.
In a tweet addressed to Moscow, Mykhailo Podolik, adviser to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, involved in several rounds of talks with Russia, said: “Do not offer us a ceasefire – it is impossible without a total withdrawal of Russian troops.”
“Unless Russia is ready to completely liberate the occupied territories, our negotiating team is arms, sanctions and money,” he wrote.
However, Russia indicated its intention to contain or at least retain influence over the territories seized by its forces.
Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnulin this week visited the Kherson and Zaporizhzhya regions, which have been under the control of Russian forces since the invasion began in February. He was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying that the regions would be part of “our Russian family”.
In addition, Volodymyr Saldo, the Kremlin-founded head of the Kherson region, appeared in a video on Telegram saying that Kherson “will become a subject of the Russian Federation.”
Sweden and Finland, fearing that Putin’s ambitions extend beyond Ukraine, applied this week to join NATO and gain its security against Russia, though the process was jeopardized by NATO member Turkey. has gone.
Turkey has accused the two Nordic countries of harboring or otherwise supporting Kurdish militants and others see it as a threat to their own security. Each of the 30 NATO countries has an effective veto on new members.
“We have told our respective friends that we will not ask Finland and Sweden to enter NATO, and we will continue on our way,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a video released on Thursday.
In other developments, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, spoke on the phone Thursday with his Russian counterpart for the first time since the start of the war, and they agreed to keep the lines of communication open, the Pentagon said.
On the battlefield, the Ukrainian army stated that Russian forces launched their offensive in various parts of the front in the Donbass, but were repulsed. The governor of the Luhansk region said four civilians were killed in Russian shelling, while separatist officials in Donetsk said two people were killed in Ukrainian shelling.
On the Russian side of the border, the governor of Kursk province said a truck driver was killed in shelling from Ukraine.
War crimes trial in KyivSergeant Vadim Shishmarin, a 21-year-old member of a Russian tank unit, told the court that he shot a 62-year-old Ukrainian citizen, Oleksandr Shelyapov, in the head on orders from an officer.
Shishimarin said that he disobeyed the first order, but felt he had no other choice when it was repeated by another officer. He said he was told the man could trace the location of soldiers to Ukrainian forces.
A prosecutor has disputed that Shishimarin was acting under orders, saying the instructions did not come from a direct commander.
Shishmarin apologized to the victim’s widow, Katerina Shelipova, who described seeing her husband shot outside their home in the early days of the Russian invasion.
He told the court that he believed Shishimarin should be sentenced to life imprisonment, but did not mind if it was exchanged for the defenders of the Azovstal plant as part of the swap. Will be
McQuillan reported from Lviv. Associated Press journalists Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Andrea Rosa in Kharkiv, and Amer Madhani in Washington and other Associated Press employees from around the world contributed.
Follow Associated Press’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine