The battle for the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol has been going on for weeks. In the meantime, numerous defenders have given up the fight. However, several hundred people could still be on the factory premises.
According to Russian information, most of the fighters from the besieged Azovstal steelworks in the Ukrainian port of Mariupol have now surrendered.
In the past 24 hours alone, more than 770 Ukrainians have been captured there, the Defense Ministry in Moscow said on Thursday. This would have surrendered 1730 fighters at the beginning of the week. It is unclear how many people are still on the factory premises. According to earlier Russian information, there should be a few hundred more.
The Ukrainian side did not initially confirm the numbers. At the beginning of the week, Kyiv spoke of a little more than 260 evacuated soldiers and then only announced that the “humanitarian operation” would continue. Looking at the numbers now published by Russia, a complete conquest of Mariupol could become apparent after almost three months of war.
Fighters at the Mariupol Steel Plant last defenders
Russia, together with pro-Russian separatists, surrounded and largely conquered the strategically important city on the Azov Sea shortly after the start of the war of aggression against the neighboring country in early March. The Ukrainian militants, entrenched in the spacious premises of the steel mill, became Mariupol’s last defenders. According to Russian estimates, around 2,500 soldiers were still in the plant before the evacuation mission began.
It is also unclear whether Moscow – as hoped by Kyiv – will agree to an exchange of Ukrainian soldiers for Russian prisoners of war. A total of 80 of the 1,730 captured Ukrainians are said to have been injured, according to Russian sources. The seriously injured were taken to a hospital in Russian-controlled Novoazovsk, it said.
Red Cross registers prisoners of war
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) registered several hundred Ukrainian fighters from the steelworks who are now in Russian captivity. For this purpose, their names and dates of birth as well as the names of their closest relatives were recorded, as the ICRC reported on Thursday in Geneva. According to the organization, which takes care of those affected by armed conflicts all over the world, it was not involved in the transport of the soldiers. She now wants to ensure that prisoners can get in touch with relatives.
According to the Geneva Convention of 1949, which applies worldwide, warring parties must grant the ICRC immediate access to all prisoners of war. The ICRC did not say whether this was possible in the case of the Asovstal fighters. “The ICRC maintains a confidential dialogue with the parties to the conflict about their obligations under international humanitarian law,” it said.