More than 1,700 defenders of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol have surrendered since Monday, Russian authorities said, in what appeared to be the final stage of a nearly three-month siege of the now-powered port city.
Fighting in the eastern Donbas region has killed at least 12 people and destroyed 60 homes when Russia bombed the neighboring towns of Sheverodonetsk and Lysyhansk, northwest of Luhansk, regional governor Serhiy Haidai told Telegram on Friday.
In addition to Thursday’s artillery attack, Russian ground troops attempted to attack Sheverodonetsk but suffered casualties and retreated, Ukraine’s General Staff said in a statement.
In Mariupol, an unknown number of defenders remain in the extensive Azovstal complex, the last stronghold of the Ukrainian resistance in the city – a target since the beginning of the invasion, which has been under effective Russian control for some time.
If the plant collapses, Russia will likely use troops from the city to bolster operations elsewhere in the Donbass industrial area, but the duration of the fierce resistance will complicate or prolong this maneuver, the Pentagon said in a daily intelligence report. .
“The fierce Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol since the start of the war means that Russian forces in the region must be rearmed and rebuilt before they can develop effectively,” the ministry wrote on Twitter.
“Russian commanders, however, are under pressure to achieve proven operational goals. This means that Russia is likely to redeploy its forces quickly without proper preparation, which risks further friction.”
Analysts say it is possible that most of the Russian forces captured by the fighting there have already left.
However, it is unclear how long the troops remaining at the Azovstal plant can last.
In a brief video message Thursday, the deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, which led the steelworks’ defense, said he and other fighters were still inside.
“An operation is underway, the details of which I will not disclose,” said Sviatoslav Palamar.
Ukrainian troops, reinforced by Western weapons, thwarted Russia’s original goal of invading the capital, Kyiv, and put up strong resistance to Moscow forces in Donbas, which President Vladimir Putin has now targeted.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday it had gathered personal information from hundreds of soldiers who had surrendered – name, date of birth, closest relative – and listed them as prisoners as part of its role in ensuring the humane treatment of prisoners. in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.
Amnesty International tweeted that the POW regime meant that soldiers “should not be subjected to any form of torture or ill-treatment”.
At least some of the fighters were transferred by the Russians to a former criminal colony on territory controlled by Moscow-backed separatists. Others were treated, according to a separatist official.
Russian state television broadcast a video showing wounded Ukrainian soldiers from the Azovstal plant at a hospital in the Donetsk region.
The sloppy men, three in a room, lay on beds as they were fed and monitored by doctors and nurses. One doctor, identified only as Natalya, said most were in serious condition with multiple fractures and many would need prostheses.
An unidentified Ukrainian patient crumpled and groaned as a nurse changed a bandage on his leg.
“The most important thing is that the leg was saved,” he said in Russian. “The pain can be endured.”
While Ukraine has expressed hope for a prisoner exchange, Russian authorities have threatened to investigate and prosecute some of Azovstal ‘s war crimes fighters, calling them “Nazis” and criminals.
The far-right origins of Azov’s constitution were seized by the Kremlin as part of an effort to pose a Russian invasion as a battle against Nazi influence in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, in the first war crimes trial conducted by Ukraine, Loch. Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old member of a Russian tank unit, told a court in Kyiv on Thursday that he had shot Oleksandr Shelipov, a 62-year-old Ukrainian citizen, in the head on the orders of an officer.
Shishimarin apologized to the victim’s widow, Kateryna Shelipova, who described seeing her husband being shot just outside their home in the early days of the Russian invasion.
She told the court that she believed Shishimarin deserved a life sentence, the maximum possible, but that she would not mind being exchanged as part of an exchange with Azovstal’s defenders.
More US aid also appeared to be heading to Ukraine when the Senate overwhelmingly approved a $ 40 billion military and financial aid package for the country and its allies. Parliament voted on it last week. The quick signature of President Joe Biden was certain.
“Help is on the way, really important help. Help that could ensure that the Ukrainians will be winners,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Sumer.
In other news, General Mark Milley, the chief of staff, spoke by telephone Thursday with his Russian counterpart for the first time since the start of the war and agreed to keep the lines of communication open, the Pentagon said. .
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