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The Red Cross registers hundreds of Ukrainian prisoners of war from Mariupol

The International Red Cross said on Thursday it had registered “hundreds” of Ukrainian prisoners of war who had left the Azovstal Steelworks in Mariupol.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said registration of Ukrainian prisoners of war, including wounded combatants, began on Tuesday under an agreement between Russia and Ukraine.

It said a team from the Geneva-based humanitarian organization, which has experience dealing with prisoners of war and prisoner exchanges, did not transport them to “the places where they are being held” – which was not specified.

The Red Cross cited rules of the Geneva Conventions that should allow the organization to question prisoners of war “without witnesses” and that visits to them should not be “unduly restricted”.

The organization did not specify how many prisoners of war were involved.

A Ukrainian soldier works during the exhumation of killed Russian soldiers near the village of Malaya Rohan on the outskirts of Kharkiv May 18, 2022.
A Ukrainian soldier works during the exhumation of killed Russian soldiers near the village of Malaya Rohan on the outskirts of Kharkiv May 18, 2022.
AP

Russia had previously said that 959 Ukrainian troops had left the Azovstal steelworks stronghold since Monday, and while Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, did not provide specific figures, he said that was more than half the force inside the complex.

This is roughly consistent with Russia’s earlier estimate that it had fought some 2,000 soldiers at the waterfront facility.

Of the Ukrainians who surrendered, Pushilin said those Ukrainian soldiers who needed medical attention were hospitalized, while others were taken to a detention center. He also claimed that Red Cross officials would be allowed to inspect the detention facility, but that could not be verified immediately.

Despite the setback in Mariupol, Ukraine’s confidence has grown after effectively halting the Russian offensive and forcing Moscow to withdraw from the Kyiv area and narrow its military objectives.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who has been involved in several rounds of talks with Russia, said in a tweet Thursday that you are “not offering us a ceasefire at this time – it is impossible without the full withdrawal of Russian troops.”

A woman walks past a crater from an explosion in Soledar, in the Donetsk region of Ukraine, May 18, 2022.
A woman walks past a crater from an explosion in Soledar, in the Donetsk region of Ukraine, May 18, 2022.
AP

“Until Russia is ready to fully liberate the occupied territories, our negotiating team consists of arms, sanctions and money,” he tweeted.

Ukraine’s military said in its morning briefing on Thursday that Russian forces were still pushing their offensive towards different sections of the frontline to the east but were being successfully repelled.

The Ukrainian military made no mention of Mariupol in its morning briefing on Thursday, saying only that Russian forces were still pushing their offensive towards different sections of the frontline to the east, but were successfully repelled.

Wounded Ukrainian soldiers lie on hospital beds May 18, 2022 in Novoazovsk, Ukraine.
Wounded Ukrainian soldiers lie on hospital beds May 18, 2022 in Novoazovsk, Ukraine.
AP
Ukrainian soldiers carry a wounded comrade after exiting a steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, May 18, 2022.
Ukrainian soldiers carry a wounded comrade after exiting a steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, May 18, 2022.
AP

In the eastern Donbass region, which has been the center of recent fighting as Russian offensive forces clashed with determined Ukrainian resistance, four civilians were killed in a Russian bombardment in the city of Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said. Three other civilians were injured in Wednesday’s attack and the shelling continued into early Thursday, Haidai said.

On the Russian side of the border, the governor of Kursk province said a truck driver was killed and several other civilians injured by shelling from Ukraine. Separatist authorities in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine said two civilians were also killed and five injured in Ukrainian shelling in the past 24 hours.

The Ukrainian militants who emerged from the ruined Azovstal steelworks after being ordered by their military to evacuate the last resistance stronghold in the now-razed port city face an uncertain fate. Some were taken by the Russians to a former penal colony in an area controlled by Moscow-backed separatists.

While Ukraine said it hoped to get the soldiers back through a prisoner swap, Russia threatened to try some of them for war crimes.

In Ukraine’s first war crimes trial, a captured Russian soldier pleaded guilty to killing a civilian on Wednesday and faces a possible life sentence.

Amnesty International previously said the Red Cross should be given immediate access to the Mariupol militants who have surrendered. Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty’s deputy director for the region, cited lawless executions allegedly carried out by Russian forces in Ukraine and said Azovstal’s defenders “must not suffer the same fate”.

The plant was the only thing that prevented Russia from declaring the full capture of Mariupol. His fall would make Mariupol the largest Ukrainian city to be taken by Moscow’s forces and give Putin a boost in a war that has seen many of his plans gone awry.

A dead Russian soldier's hand sticks out of a body bag during the exhumation of killed Russian soldiers near the village of Malaya Rohan May 18, 2022.
A dead Russian soldier’s hand sticks out of a body bag during the exhumation of killed Russian soldiers near the village of Malaya Rohan May 18, 2022.
AP

However, military analysts said that the capture of the city would have more symbolic significance than anything else at this point, as Mariupol is already effectively under Moscow’s control and most of the Russian forces tied down by the protracted fighting have already left.

The video showed the Ukrainian militants carrying their wounded on stretchers and undergoing a search before being taken away in buses escorted by military vehicles bearing the pro-Kremlin “Z” sign.

The US has gathered information showing some Russian officials are concerned that Kremlin forces are carrying out abuses in Mariupol, including beating city officials, subjecting them to electric shocks and looting homes, according to a US official familiar with the findings .

Russian officials are concerned that the abuse will further incite residents to resist the occupation and that the treatment goes against Russia’s claims that its military has freed Russian speakers, according to the official, who was not authorized to comment.

In the Kyiv war crimes case, Russian Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old member of a tank squad, pleaded guilty to shooting an unarmed 62-year-old Ukrainian man through a car window in the early days of the war. Ukraine’s chief prosecutor said about 40 more war crimes cases are being prepared.

A Ukrainian soldier examines the body of a dead Russian soldier in the village of Malaya Rohan, Ukraine, May 16, 2022.
A Ukrainian soldier examines the body of a dead Russian soldier in the village of Malaya Rohan, Ukraine, May 16, 2022.
AP

On the diplomatic front, Finland and Sweden could become members of NATO within months, although objections from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threaten to disrupt things. Turkey accuses the two countries of harboring Kurdish militants and others it sees as a threat to their security.

Ibrahim Kalin, a foreign policy adviser and spokesman for Erdogan, said there will be “no progress” on the accession bids unless Turkey’s concerns are met. Each of the 30 NATO countries has effective veto power over new members.

For months and against all odds, Mariupol’s defenders clung bitterly to the steelworks, preventing Russia from completing the occupation of the city and its port.

Mariupol was a Russian target from the start, when Moscow tried to open a land corridor from its territory to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.

The city — its pre-war population of about 430,000 now reduced by about three-quarters — has been largely reduced to rubble by relentless bombing, and Ukraine says over 20,000 civilians have been killed there.

For Ukraine, ordering militants to surrender could leave President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government vulnerable to accusations that it has failed the troops he described as heroes.

“Zelensky could be faced with awkward questions,” said Volodymyr Fesenko, who heads the independent think tank Penta in Kyiv. “There were voices of dissatisfaction and accusations of betraying Ukrainian soldiers.”

Even a hoped-for prisoner exchange could fail, he warned.

Rescuers work at the site of a residential building destroyed by Russian shelling in Bakhmut, Ukraine, May 18, 2022.
Rescuers work at the site of a residential building destroyed by Russian shelling in Bakhmut, Ukraine, May 18, 2022.
AP

Russia’s main federal investigative agency said it intends to interrogate the surrendering troops to “identify the nationalists” and determine whether they were involved in crimes against civilians.

Also, Russia’s top prosecutor petitioned the country’s Supreme Court to designate Ukraine’s Azov regiment – among the troops that made up the Azovstal garrison – as a terrorist organization. The regiment has far-right roots.

Russia’s parliament was due to consider a resolution to ban the exchange of fighters from the Azov regiment, but did not address the issue on Wednesday.

https://nypost.com/2022/05/19/red-cross-registers-hundreds-of-ukrainian-pows-from-mariupol/ The Red Cross registers hundreds of Ukrainian prisoners of war from Mariupol

JACLYN DIAZ

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