Russia’s claim to have captured Mariupol has fueled concern over prisoners of war

Pokrovsk, Ukraine (AB) – Concerns over Ukrainian militants escalated on Saturday The Moscow-backed separatist leader was taken prisoner at the end of Russia’s brutal three – month siege of Mariupol as he vowed to face the courts.

Russia has demanded full control of the Azovstal steel plant, which lasted several weeks in Mariupol and was a symbol of Ukrainian stability in the strategic port city, now feared to have killed more than 20,000 residents. Its capture gives Russian President Vladimir Putin the badly desired victory in the war he launched in February.

As Western nations march behind Ukraine, Polish President Andrzej Duda will pay an unexpected visit to Ukraine and address the country’s parliament on Sunday, his office said.

Poland, which has welcomed millions of Ukrainian refugees since the beginning of the war, has been a strong supporter of Ukraine’s desire to join the European Union. As Russia blocks Ukraine’s seaports, Poland has become a major gateway for Western humanitarian aid and weapons to enter Ukraine, helping Ukraine transport its grain and other agricultural products to world markets.

The Russian Defense Ministry has released a video of Ukrainian soldiers being detained after it announced that its forces had removed the last locations from the Maripol plant’s extensive underground tunnels. Denis Bushlin, a pro-Kremlin leader in eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Moscow separatists, said 2,439 people were being held. Although he did not provide details, Russian state television said some foreigners were in that number.

Family members of the steel plant militants, from various military and law enforcement agencies, eventually returned to Ukraine, demanding that they be granted rights as prisoners of war. Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vareshchuk said on Saturday that Ukraine would “fight back” each of them.

Convoys of buses guarded by Russian armored vehicles left the plant on Friday. At least some Ukrainians were taken to the former penal colony. Others have been admitted to hospital, Russian officials said.

Bushlin said the Ukrainians were determined to face court. Russian authorities and the state media have sought to classify the militants as neo-Nazis and criminals.

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“I believe justice must be done. There is a demand for this from ordinary people, the community and, most likely, the sensible sections of the world community,” Bushlin was quoted as saying by the Russian state news agency DOS.

Among the defenders Were members of the Azov regiment, whose far-right appearance was captured by the Kremlin as part of its attempt to launch an invasion of Ukraine as a war against Nazi influence.

The Ukrainian government has not commented on Russia’s claim to have captured Azovstall. The Ukrainian army told the militants that their mission was over And they can come out. It described their extraction as an exodus, not a mass surrender.

In 2014, Mariupol captured Russia’s quest to build a causeway from Russia through the Donbass region, which occupied Moscow from Ukraine to the Crimean peninsula.

The impact of the wider war is not clear. Many Russian troops had already been relocated from Mariupol to other locations in the conflict.

Russia’s defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Saturday that Russia had destroyed a Ukrainian special operations base near Ukraine’s main Black Sea port of Odessa, as well as a significant warehouse for Western-supplied weapons in the Cytomir region of northern Ukraine. There is no confirmation from the Ukrainian side.

The Ukrainian military says heavy fighting has broken out in much of Donbass in eastern Ukraine.

“The situation in the Donbas is very difficult,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the nation in his nightly video address. “As in previous days, the Russian army is trying to attack Sloviansk and Siverodonetsk.” He said Ukrainian forces were stopping the attack “every day”.

Zhivrodonetsk is the main city under Ukrainian control in the Luhansk region, which forms the Donbass with the Donetsk region. The only hospital operating in the city has three doctors and only the supplies needed for 10 days, Governor Serhi Haidai said.

Slovyansk, in the Donetsk region, is critical of Russia’s goal of capturing all of eastern Ukraine and has seen heavy fighting since Moscow’s troops withdrew from Kyiv last month. The governor said seven civilians were killed in a Russian shelling on Saturday and 10 others were injured elsewhere in the region.

A monastery in the Donetsk regional village of Phorodichne was evacuated after being attacked by a Russian airstrike, regional police said Saturday. About 100 monks, nuns and children were searching for safe shelter in the basement of the church, but no one was injured, police said in a Facebook post that included a video showing detailed damage to the monastery and the nuns, nuns and children. Boarded to evacuate vans on Friday.

On Saturday, Zelenskyy insisted that Donbass was still part of Ukraine and that his forces were fighting to liberate it.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, he put pressure on Western countries to launch several missile launchers, saying “stand idly by” in other countries, but was key to Ukraine’s success.

US President Joe Biden on Saturday signed a new $ 40 billion aid package To Ukraine, half to military aid. Portugal pledged up to 250 million euros, as well as continued shipment of military equipment.

Mariupol, which was part of the Donbass, was besieged at the beginning of the war and became a frightening role model for people elsewhere in the country of the hunger, terror and death they would face if the Russians surrounded their communities.

Occupying an area of ​​about 11 square kilometers (4 square miles), the coastal steelworks have been a battleground for weeks. A group of shrinking Ukrainian militants, drawing Russian airstrikes, artillery and tank fire, were stopped outside with the help of airstrikes.

In an interview released on Friday, he said Ukrainian helicopter pilots had fought bravely to retrieve anti-aircraft fire medicine, food and water and bodies and rescue wounded fighters. A “huge” number of pilots died on the voyages, calling them “absolutely heroic.”

The Russian Defense Ministry on Saturday released a video of Russian troops capturing Sergei Wolinsky, commander of the 36th Special Forces of the Ukrainian Navy, one of the main forces guarding the steel plant. The Associated Press could not independently verify the date, location and terms of the video.

As Russia controls the city, Ukrainian authorities will face delays in documenting evidence of alleged Russian atrocities in Mariupol, including the bombing of a maternity hospital and a theater where hundreds of civilians were hiding.. In April, satellite images showed what appeared to be mass graves outside Mariupol, where local officials accused Russia of covering up the massacre by burying 9,000 civilians.

Of the 450,000 people who lived in Mariupol before the war, only 100,000 remain. Many trapped in the Russian siege were left without food, water and electricity.

The Ukrainian mayor of the city of Mariupol warned on Saturday that the city is facing a health and sanitary “disaster” due to the mass burying of shallow pits and the breakdown of sewage systems throughout the ruined city. Vadim Boychenko said summer rains threatened to pollute water sources as Russian forces pressured residents to leave the city safely.

“In addition to the humanitarian catastrophe caused by the (Russian) occupiers and collaborators, the city is on the brink of an epidemic,” he told the Telegram news agency.

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Reported from McQuillan Lviv. Stashevsky reported from Kiev. Associated Press journalists in Lviv were joined by Yuras Karmanov, Andrea Rosa in Kharkiv, Francis de Emilio in Rome and other AP staff from around the world.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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