Azovstal factory troops: Russia wants to interrogate Ukrainian soldiers

Status: 05/17/2022 10:10 p.m.

The first Ukrainian soldiers were brought out of the Azovstal factory in Mariupol – but what now? As Ukraine pushes for a prisoner exchange, Russia seems keen to investigate possible crimes committed by the armed forces.

After weeks of perseverance, more than 260 Ukrainian soldiers were able to leave the Azovstal factory in the port city of Mariupol – and are now in Russian captivity. Ukraine is banking on an exchange for Russian soldiers, but that seems to have fallen on deaf ears in Moscow.

According to Ukraine, at least 264 of its own fighters have now been withdrawn from the industrial complex. Around 50 seriously injured are believed to be among them. Also on Tuesday, Ukrainian soldiers were taken from the site in seven buses, Reuters news agency reported.

Ukrainian soldiers from the besieged Mariupol steelworks are now taking Russian prisoners

Birgit Virnich, ARD Warsaw, daily topics 10:30 p.m., May 18, 2022

Many soldiers apparently taken to prison camps

The soldiers had remained in the steel mills and the vast associated bunker system for weeks. They repeatedly asked for help in video messages and drew attention to the deteriorating supply situation.

First, civilians who were also on the premises of the steelworks were brought to safety. Now the first Ukrainian soldiers followed. The majority of the fighters were reportedly taken to the village of Olenivka near Donetsk. The region is controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

There is a prison camp there, which Ukrainian officials have also called a concentration camp in the past. ARD-Correspondent Rebecca Barth reported. Russian media also said the wounded soldiers would be taken to Novoazovsk district hospital and receive medical treatment.

conflicting parties as a source

In the current situation, the information on the course of the war, the shelling and the victims provided by the official bodies of the Russian and Ukrainian parties to the conflict cannot be verified directly by an independent body.

Ukrainian soldiers against Russian soldiers?

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maljar hopes to be able to agree with Russia on an exchange of prisoners: the more than 260 fighters for Russian soldiers.

Through the use of its own soldiers, significant time was gained to build up reserves, consolidate forces and receive help from partners. “The defenders of Mariupol fully executed all the tasks assigned by the commanders. Unfortunately, we do not have the possibility to militarily resolve the blockade of Azovstal,” Malyar said.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also stressed in a video message that Ukraine needs “her heroes” alive. According to him, it was as a result of mutual negotiations that the first fighters could now leave the Azovstal plant.

However, hundreds of fighters are believed to still be at the site. The Ukrainian General Staff leaves the exact figure open. However, he warned that Russian troops would continue to blockade the steelworks.

Soldiers must be interrogated

The future fate of Ukrainian soldiers is unclear. A Russian investigative commission has announced that it wants to question the armed forces as part of an investigation into “alleged crimes committed by the Ukrainian regime against the civilian population” in the industrial east of the country. Investigators would identify “the nationalists” and verify whether they had been implicated in crimes against civilians.

“Bringing War Criminals to Justice”

In the plenary session, the head of the Russian parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, however, clearly spoke out against a “general exchange of prisoners”. He described Ukrainian fighters as “Nazi criminals” – the head of the Duma said they were not subject to exchange. “They are war criminals and we must do everything we can to bring them to justice.”

Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stressed that Russia was always ready to “solve humanitarian problems” – just as it did “when, thanks to our army and its local initiatives, hundreds wounded were evacuated from Azovstal”. These are precisely the principles underlying the actions of the Russian army.

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