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More than 1,700 Ukraine soldiers surrendered at Azovstal: Russia

More than 1,700 Ukraine soldiers surrendered at Azovstal: Russia

dpa
Moscow
About 1,730 Ukrainian combatants have surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol since the start of the week, the Russian Defence Ministry said on Thursday, but their fate remains unclear.
More than 770 Ukrainian fighters were captured at the besieged factory in the past 24 hours alone, the ministry said.
The Kremlin has not clarified what comes next. Kiev has suggested they could be exchanged for Russians held by Ukraine, although some in Moscow have called for the Ukrainian forces to be treated as criminals and put on trial.
In Geneva, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Ukrainians who left the Azovstal grounds and are now Moscow’s prisoners of war must be able to get in touch with their relatives.
The organization has registered the personal data of several hundred fighters who left the plant in the port city, but said it was not involved in the transport of the soldiers to Russian-controlled territory.
According to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, warring parties must grant the ICRC immediate access to all prisoners of war, but the organization did not confirm whether this was possible in the case of the Azovstal fighters.
“The ICRC maintains a confidential dialogue with the parties to the conflict on their obligations under international humanitarian law,” it said in a statement.
Mariupol was surrounded shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, and Ukrainian defenders holed up in the Azovstal steel plant as Russian troops gradually took control of the city.
Russia did not risk attempting an outright assault on the plant but had blocked all access points and the area was repeatedly bombed.
Hundreds of civilians that had sheltered there along with the soldiers were evacuated in recent days.
Negotiations followed over the withdrawal of the soldiers, some of whom were seriously injured and had hardly any water or food supplies left.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declared the two-month long battle for the plant over at the start of week, paving the way for the Ukrainian troops to be taken in by Russian forces.
It is not clear how many soldiers remain at Azovstal as of Thursday evening. Mariupol is now entirely under Russian control.
Meanwhile, Russia tied a possible opening of Ukrainian ports for grain exports to a partial lifting of Western sanctions against Moscow.

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