The self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic said on May 18 that a total of 962 Ukrainian fighters had surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant since the beginning of the week.
Newly released video from the Russian Ministry of Defense’s Zvezda channel showed fighters, some on stretchers and crutches, leaving the plant. Some of the people are wearing Azovstal steel plant uniforms and others are in military-style uniforms. The video ends with fighters being loaded onto buses, and one into an ambulance.
Starting on May 16, Ukrainian evacuees were moved to Russian-occupied Novoazovsk and Olenivka in Donetsk Oblast, according to Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar. The Russian Ministry of Defense said the wounded would be treated in hospital in Novoazovsk.
Malyar said an exchange for the evacuees would take place, but the Russian Duma was reported to be considering a ban on swapping prisoners from the Azov Battalion.
The military personnel would be interrogated by investigators from Russia’s Investigative Committee, state media reported on May 17. Denis Pushilin, head of the DPR, said on May 18 that their fate “should be decided by the court,” another report said.
Russia has accused the Azov Battalion and other Ukrainian fighters who held Azovstal of being criminals, and has regularly likened them to Nazis. The Azov Battalion originated as a far-right militia before being absorbed into the Ukrainian military.
The Azovstal plant had become the last stronghold of Ukrainian troops in Mariupol after most of the city fell under control of the Russian military and the Donetsk People’s Republic. Hundreds of civilians sheltering in Azovstal were evacuated to areas under both Russian and Ukrainian control as part of an earlier deal. Credit: Zvezda News via Storyful