More than 1,700 Ukrainian gunmen who have been holding out for a long time at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol are surrendering this week, according to Russian sources. But a key group says it continues to resist.
According to their own statements, the commanders of the last military resistance of Ukraine in Mariupol are still in the Azovstal Steel Plant. Ukrainian media circulated a video showing the deputy commander of the Azov regiment Svyatoslav Palamar. "I and the command are at the Azovstal plant. There is a certain operation going on, the details of which I will not say anything. We thank the whole world, we thank Ukraine," said Palamar.
The video received wide coverage in the Ukrainian media. Russian news sites, however, reported that Palamar had gone into captivity. According to Russian information, since the beginning of the week 1,730 Ukrainian gunmen have surrendered, hiding in the branched bunkers under the steelworks. They were taken prisoner of war.
The Defense Ministry in Moscow released a video showing Ukrainian soldiers, who appear to have surrendered, leaving the industrial complex. Some of them are visibly injured, some are on crutches. Kyiv hopes for a prisoner exchange. However, Russian authorities have repeatedly emphasized that at least some of the prisoners are not seen as soldiers but as neo-Nazi fighters.
The US said it was closely monitoring Russia's treatment of the soldiers. "We expect all prisoners of war to be treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and the laws of war," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.
In April, after weeks of siege, the Kremlin announced that it had taken control of Mariupol. However, Ukrainian soldiers had entrenched themselves in the tunnel system under the huge industrial complex of the Azov steelworks, where they were besieged by Russian troops. The complete capture of Mariupol would be a strategic success for Moscow. According to the Ukrainian General Staff, fierce resistance in the port city has slowed down the advance of Russian forces towards the major city of Zaporizhia, which is still in Ukrainian hands.