A number of Azov soldiers who defended themselves in the besieged Mariupol and the steel mills there are now in Russian captivity. The court’s decision means they can now be tried as members or organizers of a terrorist organization, which carries the harshest penalties of up to 20 years in prison, the Kommersant newspaper reported on its website.
At the end of July, in a prison in the village of Olenivka in the separatist-controlled part of Donbass 53 Ukrainian prisoners of war lost their lives. The Russian side claims that the Ukrainian army hit the prison with a US-supplied HIMARS missile launcher. Kyiv denied this and instead accused Russian forces of carrying out the attack to cover up the torture and execution of prisoners. Former defenders of the Mariupol ironworks and the Azovstal steelworks, including members of the Azov Regiment, were held in the prison in Olenivka.
The remaining Ukrainian defenders of Mariupol, who had spent months alongside civilians in the sprawling Azovstal compound, were captured by invading Russian and pro-Russian forces in May, when they surrendered on orders from the Ukrainian military command. Their resistance under relentless Russian bombing became a symbol of Ukrainian defiance against Russian aggression.
Meanwhile, the separatists have announced that they want to put members of the Azov Regiment and other Ukrainian units on trial for alleged war crimes. Many Ukrainians worship the members of the regiment as heroes, while Moscow repeatedly portrays them as neo-Nazis. The “denazification” of Ukraine was one of the stated goals of Russia’s February invasion.
The Russian Ministry of Defense announced in June that it was holding over 6,000 Ukrainian soldiers captive, including more than 2,400 defenders of Mariupol.
The defenders of Azovstal take the occupied territories to the Russians: