Russia captured thousands of Ukrainian fighters, including the Mariupol defenders. In Kyiv, wives, mothers and sisters are now speaking up. You are extremely concerned.

After the capture of hundreds of Ukrainian fighters from the Azov regiment in the port city of Mariupol, the sisters, wives and mothers have called on Russia to release the men.

The defenders of Mariupol heroically defended the city against Russian attacks on orders. “They are heroes and must not be forgotten and must return home,” Nataliya Zarizka told journalists in Kyiv on Monday.

New organization “Women of Steel”

She is the initiator of the new organization “Steel Women” based on the men who held the fort for weeks at the Azov steelworks in Mariupol until the last of them went into captivity on May 20. Sarizka and other women called on the international community to do everything possible to secure the men’s release.

Prisoners of war also have rights, Sarizka said. She has had no contact with her husband since May 17th. He’s entitled to about two phone calls a week. “We stand together as women. Our strength is cohesion,” she said.

According to Russian information, about 2,500 fighters were taken prisoner. It is unclear where they are being held. Russian President Vladimir Putin had assured the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross that the men would be treated in accordance with international legal standards. They should also receive medical care.

“This promise is the only hope that he will at least keep that,” said Sandra Krotevych about the Kremlin chief. Her brother Bohdan Krotevych (29) was the deputy commander of the Azov regiment. “I don’t know where he is, how his health is. He is threatened with torture and abuse in Russian captivity,” she told the German Press Agency in Kyiv. She hopes that he can return to Ukraine via a third country.

Krotewytsch: Macron and Scholz should help as mediators

Politicians like Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) or French President Emmanuel Macron, who have a connection to Moscow, would have to help as mediators, said Krotewytsch. Regarding the half-naked prisoners who were on display in Russia, many of whom were also tattooed with Nazi symbols, she said: “My brother wasn’t there. But these pictures say nothing. There is not a single piece of evidence that Nazis are operating here,” she said.

Kremlin chief Putin repeatedly justifies his war against Ukraine by saying that he wants to rid the country of “drug-addicted Nazis”. Krotevych called that nonsense. “There are people with tattoos like this everywhere, in Russia – and probably also in Germany. That doesn’t prove anything.” Crimean Tatars, Muslims, Jews and also Buddhists served in the Azov regiment, Krotevych said. She comes from the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014. Today she lives in Kyiv.

The women hope that the men will be able to return to Ukraine as part of a prisoner exchange. The pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk region had previously announced that they would try the prisoners as war criminals. Human rights activists have doubts that the trials are fair. The death penalty can also be imposed in the area.