Russia plans tribunal for Mariupol prisoners of war
WAt least the dead are allowed to return: On Wednesday Ukraine and Russia the mortal remains of every 50 fallen soldiers were exchanged. According to Ukrainian sources, the majority of the Ukrainians killed fell in the fighting for the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol. At the first exchange of casualties between the two countries on Saturday, among the 160 corpses brought to Ukraine were numerous dead from the battles around Azovstal. Meanwhile, for their surviving comrades, the prospects of returning home through a prisoner exchange are dwindling.
The Russian state news agency TASS reported on Wednesday what had been circulating as a rumor on social media in the days before: Around 1,000 of the Ukrainian soldiers who were in mid-May in Mariupol into Russian captivity were brought to Russia for investigation purposes. “The security organs are working vigorously with them,” said an unnamed source, according to the agency. More prisoners were to be taken to Russia.
The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy had ordered the soldiers who had entrenched themselves in Azowstal in mid-May to stop the hopeless fight. “Ukraine needs its heroes alive,” he said at the time. However, the first statements made by Russian politicians after the end of the battle for Mariupol indicated that the prospects for the prisoner exchange sought by Kyiv were poor. “Nazi criminals must not be exchanged,” said Parliament Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin. “These are war criminals and we must do everything we can to bring them to justice.” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko was quoted as saying that a tribunal on the soldiers was “probably necessary”. While the Ukrainian leadership was still optimistic that the soldiers would soon be released, Russian media loyal to the Kremlin were already reporting on preparations for such a tribunal on the men who, according to Russian propaganda, have committed crimes against the civilian population in Mariupol.
Three foreigners are also threatened with the death penalty
Of course, this has not been officially confirmed by the Kremlin – just like the transfer of the Ukrainian soldiers has not yet been officially confirmed. In May, the “head” of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” Denis Pushilin made the most concrete statements: he was the only one who gave an exact number of the captured Ukrainians – according to him 2,439, including 78 women – and announced an “international tribunal” on the territory of his “people’s republic ” on. Puschilin also said at the time that there were foreigners among the prisoners.