Russia-Ukraine war: Russia says nearly 700 more Mariupol fighters have surrendered


Russia-Ukraine war: Russia says nearly 700 more Mariupol fighters have surrendered

Russia has said nearly 700 more Ukrainian fighters from the beseiged town of Mariupol, Ukraine have surrendered.

The statement from Russia comes after two months of fighting the Ukranian soldiers known as the ‘Azov Regiment’ from the Azovstal steelworks plant where they have been hiding for months.

It also comes after the Ukranian government announced last week it had ordered its garrison in Mariupol to stand down and surrender to Russia.

A pro-Russian separatist leader said commanders on Wednesday May 18, still said some soldiers were still holed up in tunnels beneath the giant Azovstal steelworks.

Ukrainian officials have also not made any public statement about the fate of fighters who had made their last stand in the steelworks plant, one of the largest plants in Europe.

Russia’s ministry of defence said 694 more fighters had surrendered overnight, bringing the total number of people who had laid down arms to 959. The leader of pro-Russian separatists in control of the area, Denis Pushilin, was quoted by a local news agency DNA as saying the main commanders were still inside the plant. Russian state media released photos of the Ukranian fighters being carried away with buses guarded by pro-Russian separatist fighters.

More than 50 wounded fighters have been brought for treatment to a hospital in Russian controlled territories while others have been taken to a newly re-opened prison, in towns held by pro-Russian separatists. Reuters journalists have filmed buses bringing some captured fighters to both locations.

The Kremlin says Putin has personally guaranteed the humane treatment of fighters who surrendered.

Ukrainian officials had confirmed the surrender of more than 250 fighters on Tuesday. But they did not say how many more were inside or what might become of them.

“The state is making utmost efforts to carry out the rescue of our servicemen. Let’s wait. Currently, the most important thing is to save the lives of our heroes,” Ukranian military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzaynik told a news conference. “Any information to the public could endanger that process.”

“Unfortunately, the subject is very sensitive and there is a very fragile set of talks going on today, therefore I cannot say anything more,” said Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko. He said President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the Red Cross and the United Nations were involved in talks, but gave no further details.

The final surrender of Mariupol would bring a close to a near three month siege of the once prosperous city of more than 400,000 people, where Ukraine says tens of thousands of civilians have died under Russian bombardment. Russia decided to attack Mariupol so as to get a crucial land corridor linking annexed Crimea to the Donbas region of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Ukrainian officials have spoken of hopes to arrange a prisoner swap for Mariupol defenders they describe as national heroes. Moscow says no such deal was made for the fighters, whom Russian president, Vladimir Putin has refered to as ‘nazis’

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