Siege Azovstal, Ukraine-Russia talks end
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Siege Azovstal, Ukraine-Russia talks end

More than 250 Ukrainian fighters have surrendered to Russian forces at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol after weeks of resistance, ending the most devastating siege of the Russian war in Ukraine, as negotiations between the sides to end the war have been suspended for a time being.

Siege Azovstal, Ukraine-Russia talks end

Reuters saw buses leaving the steel mill, where defenders had held out in a complex of bunkers and tunnels, in convoys escorted by Russian armored vehicles.

Five arrived in the Russian-occupied city of Novoazovsk, where Russia said the wounded would be treated.

It is not clear what will happen to the fighters.

The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin had personally guaranteed that the detainees would be treated according to international standards.

But a Reuters witness said seven buses carrying Ukrainian fighters from the Azovstal garrison arrived at a former penal colony in the Russian-controlled town of Olenivka near Donetsk.

The TASS news agency said a Russian commission planned to interrogate the soldiers, many of them members of the Azov battalion, as part of an investigation into what Russia calls “crimes committed by the Ukrainian regime”.

The denouement of a battle symbolizing Ukrainian resistance occurred as Russia’s invading forces struggled elsewhere, with troops retreating from the outskirts of Kharkiv in the northeast.

Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak said on local television on Tuesday that no progress can be made in peace talks if Russia does not recognize the situation on the ground.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, saying it wanted to “denazify” the country, to the dismay of the international community.

“To this day, they live in a world where there is supposedly a Ukrainian Nazism,” Podolyak said, adding that there was only “Russian Nazism”.

He said that a ceasefire can only be discussed after a complete withdrawal of Russian troops, with only a full liberation of all occupied territories acceptable.

Russia previously confirmed the end of the negotiations.

“No, the negotiations are not going ahead. Ukraine has practically left the negotiation process,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko told reporters.

On the international front, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said Sweden and Finland will hand in their respective applications to join NATO on Wednesday, abandoning their longstanding policy of neutrality over concerns about Putin’s broader intentions.

The leaders expressed their optimism that they could overcome Turkey’s objections to joining amid a wave of diplomatic activity to smooth their way into the 30-strong military alliance.

The complete capture of Mariupol is Russia’s biggest victory since the invasion. It gives its forces total control of the coast of the Sea of ​​Azov and an uninterrupted stretch of eastern and southern Ukraine.

But the port city now lies in ruins, and Ukraine believes tens of thousands of people have died in months of Russian bombing and siege.

Russia said at least 256 Ukrainian fighters “had laid down their arms and surrendered, “and 51 were seriously injured.

Ukraine said 264 soldiers, including 53 wounded, had left.

Video from the Russian Defense Ministry shows fighters leaving the factory, some on stretchers, others with their hands up to be searched by Russian troops.

While both sides discussed a deal that would see all Ukrainian troops leave the massive steel plant, many details were not yet public, including how many fighters were still inside and whether any form of prisoner swapping had been agreed upon.

Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar told a briefing that officials in Kyiv would not reveal how many fighters were at the factory until they were all safe.

“The Mariupol garrison has completed its combat mission,” the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a statement.

“The Supreme Military Command ordered the commanders of the units stationed in Azovstal to save the lives of the personnel.”

In a statement on Monday, the Azov regiment, the main Ukrainian unit that had held out at the steel plant, said it had achieved its goal during 82 days of resistance by making it possible to defend the rest of the country.

Now part of Ukraine’s Territorial Forces, the regiment originated as an ultra-nationalist militia. Russia has portrayed defeating its fighters as central to its stated objective of “de-Nazification” Ukraine.

Russia blames them for mistreating Russian speakers, one of its justifications for war, which Ukraine and its backers call a bogus pretext.