Mariupol troops surrendered. Now they're registered as POWs, in a prison colony.

·Producer
·4 min read

LONDON — More than 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers have surrendered in what was the last stronghold of the city of Mariupol, the Russian Defense Ministry said Thursday. Since Monday, 1,730 troops, who were holed up in the Azovstal steel plant, have been evacuated from what remained of the mill.

About 900 Ukrainian soldiers have been sent, according to Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, to a former prison colony located 55 miles north of the port city. The Kremlin’s Defense Ministry disclosed that the 80 soldiers who surrendered earlier in the week were being treated in hospitals in the Russian-held cities of Donetsk and Novoazovsk.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, a humanitarian agency, said it had gathered personal information from the soldiers and registered them as prisoners of war as they left the steelworks. This was to ensure that they would be given humane treatment under the Geneva Conventions. The ICRC added that it was not transporting the soldiers to where they would be held but said it must “have immediate access to all POWs in all places where they are held.”

Ukrainian servicemen sit in a bus after they were evacuated from Mariupol's besieged Azovstal steel plant, near a remand prison in Olyonivka, in territory controlled by Russia in eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian servicemen in a bus after they were evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine. (Alexei Alexandrov/AP)

But there are concerns over how the soldiers will be treated once under Russian control. “Prisoners of war must not be subjected to any form of torture or ill treatment, and should be given immediate access to the International Committee of the Red Cross,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. “The relevant authorities must fully respect the rights of prisoners of war in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.”

Ukrainian officials expressed hope for a prisoner exchange, with President Volodymyr Zelensky saying he was working to ensure that “the most influential international forces are informed and, as much as possible, involved in saving our troops."

Oleksiy Goncharenko, a Ukrainian lawmaker, told the BBC that he hoped Russia would honor the prisoner exchange. “We are ready to exchange, but they don't even take [the] bodies of their soldiers and officers from the field,” he said. “So I hope we will have [the] exchange, and I hope to see our heroes back at home, and see them alive.”

In this photo taken from a video released by the Russian Defense Ministry on Thursday, Ukrainian servicemen are seen in a penal colony in Olyonivka after leaving the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.
Ukrainian servicemen in a penal colony in Olyonivka after leaving the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

However, Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia’s State Duma, said on Tuesday that “Nazi criminals should not be exchanged,” referring to the Azovstal fighters. “Our country treats those who surrendered or were captured humanely. But with regards to Nazis, our position should be unchanged: These are war criminals, and we must do everything so that they stand trial.”

His words were echoed by the leader of the separatist Donetsk region, who said on Wednesday that a court would rule on the fate of the Ukrainian soldiers who surrendered. "As for war criminals and those who are nationalists, if they laid down their arms their fate should be decided by the court,” Denis Pushilin said, according to the Russian state-run news agency Tass. “If this is a Nazi criminal, then by a court-martial," he added. In February, Russian President Vladimir Putin attempted to legitimize the invasion of Ukraine by claiming that Russia would “de-Nazify” the country.

Bodycam footage, recorded by a celebrated medic, showed the horrors that took place inside Mariupol while the city was falling to the Russian forces. Yuliia Paievska filmed her team’s efforts to save civilians and soldiers over a period of two weeks. One clip shows the harrowing moment when Paievska can be heard sobbing after she and other medical personnel failed to save a boy’s life. Another shows the medic bandaging the top of a man’s bloody head.

Yuliia Paievska, known as Taira, closes the eyes of a boy who died on Feb. 26 in Mariupol. Using a body camera, she recorded her team's frantic efforts to bring people back from the brink of death.
Yuliia Paievska closes the eyes of a boy who died on Feb. 26 in Mariupol. Using a body camera, she recorded her team's frantic efforts to bring people back from the brink of death. (Yuliia Paievska via AP)

Paievska smuggled out the data card, which she had hidden in a tampon, to Associated Press journalists who were the last to leave in the humanitarian convoy in March. Paievska has since been captured by Russian forces.

Yuliia Paievska and her driver, Serhiy, sit in a vehicle in Mariupol on March 9. She last appeared on March 21 on Russian television as a captive, handcuffed and with bruises on her face.
Paievska and her driver, Serhiy, in a vehicle in Mariupol on March 9. She last appeared on March 21 on Russian television as a captive, handcuffed and with bruises on her face. (Yuliia Paievska via AP)

_____

What happened last week in Ukraine? Check out this explainer from Yahoo Immersive to find out.

 

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting