Screenshot of a video released by the Russian Defense Ministry on May 17, 2022 showing Ukrainian soldiers being checked by Russian forces after exiting the Azovstal Steel Plant in the city of Mariupol – Photo: AFP / Russian Defense Ministry
“In the past 24 hours, 265 (Ukrainian) soldiers have laid down their arms and surrendered. Of these, 51 are seriously injured,” the Russian Defense Ministry said on May 17.
The ministry added that soldiers in need of medical assistance were taken to a hospital in the city of Novoazovsk.
When asked by reporters whether Russia would consider these Ukrainian soldiers war criminals or prisoners of war, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman did not give a clear answer.
“Putin guarantees that they will be treated in accordance with relevant international laws,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Earlier, late May 16, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said about 260 Ukrainian soldiers, including dozens seriously injured, had been taken to Russian-controlled territory. By the morning of May 17, they said that “an exchange procedure is being carried out to repatriate these Ukrainian heroes as soon as possible.”
On May 17, Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Iryna Vereshchuk said: “As soon as the condition of these soldiers has stabilized, we will exchange them and Russian prisoners.”
It is unclear how many Ukrainian troops are still holed up in the Azovstal steel works. The Ukrainian military said it has now ended its combat deployment in the strategic city of Mariupol.
According to the newspaper New York TimesIn recent weeks, the Azovstal Steel Works and its network of underground tunnels have become sanctuaries for around 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers as Russia seeks control of the city of Mariupol.