Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) —Ukrainian fighters pulled out of Mariupol’s last resistance fortress are taken to a former penal colony on enemy-controlled territory, and top military officials say they are Russian prisoners of war. I wanted to be replaced. But Moscow lawmakers said they should lead them to “justice.”

According to a Russian news agency, the Russian parliament planned to pass a resolution on Wednesday to prevent the replacement of Azov Battalion fighters that had held up for months in the Azovstal ironworks factory while Mariupol was besieged. ..

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, about 1,000 Ukrainian troops trapped in Azofustari handed over themselves this week. More than 260 people remain on Monday, and nearly 700 since then.

Many have been injured and it is not clear how many fighters remain in the vast steelworks.

Earlier, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, Hannah Maria, said negotiations were underway to release the fighters, as well as plans to take them out of the vast steelworks. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the plan “involves the most influential international intermediaries.” Authorities are not saying how many are left inside.

The army of the waterside steelworks was Mariupol’s last stand pocket, which was effectively in the hands of Russia for some time.

Sweden and Finland formally applied for NATO on Wednesday in an unrelated development that could undermine Russia’s declaration of victory in Mariupol. This is a move driven by security concerns about Russia’s aggression.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on February 24 that it was an effort to confirm NATO enlargement, but the strategy was to direct the people of traditionally non-allied countries Sweden and Finland to the Western Alliance. He said it backfired.

NATO Secretary-General Jason Stoltenberg said he welcomed the application. The application must currently be considered by 30 Member States.

Mariupol was targeted by Russia in the early days of the invasion. The British Department of Defense said in a daily report Wednesday that Ukraine had fought fiercely with a strategic port city and Russia had sacrificed Russia’s time and troops as it attempted to occupy the land route from its headquarters to the Crimean Peninsula. ..

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“Even though Russian troops have surrounded Mariupol for more than a decade, Ukraine’s stubborn resistance has delayed Russia’s ability to take full control of the city,” the ministry said. “This frustrated early attempts to occupy major cities and incurred costly human losses among Russian troops.”

Over 260 Ukrainian fighters Some of them were seriously injured and carried out on stretchers — they left the ruins of the Azofustari factory on Monday and left themselves to the Russian side in an arrangement negotiated by the parties to the war. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said on Wednesday that 694 Ukrainian soldiers had handed them over in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 959.

On Tuesday, seven buses carrying an unknown number of Ukrainian soldiers were seen arriving from the factory at a former penal colony in the town of Olenifka, about 88 km (55 miles) north of Mariupol.

Russia called it surrender, but the Ukrainians avoided the word and instead said that the factory garrison had successfully completed its mission. He detained Russian troops and received new orders.

With the departure of the fighter, Mariupol was on the verge of falling under complete Russian control. The occupation was the largest city occupied by the Moscow army and would give the Kremlin a terribly necessary victory, but the landscape was largely rubble.

Soldiers who left the factory were searched by Russian troops, loaded onto buses, and taken to two towns dominated by Moscow-backed separatists. According to both sides, more than 50 fighters were seriously injured.

It was not possible to ascertain the total number of fighters brought to Olenivka or their legal status. Mariupol and Orenifka are both part of the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, but Orenifka has been dominated by Russian-backed separatists since 2014 and is part of the unrecognized “Donetsk People’s Republic”. Is forming. Prior to the rebel hijacking, Penal Colony 120 was a safe facility designed to house prisoners convicted of serious crimes.

Images taken by the Associated Press showed that the convoy was escorted by a military vehicle with the “Z” sign of the parent Kremlin because the Soviet flag fluttered from a pillar along the road. About 20 Ukrainian fighters were seen on one of the buses.

Ukrainian human rights ombudsman said Russian troops have also detained more than 3,000 civilians from Mariupol in another former penal colony near Olenifka. According to Ombudsman Lyudmyla Denisova, most civilians are detained for one month, while former soldiers, police, and other civilians who are considered “particularly unreliable” are detained for two months. She said detainees included about 30 volunteers who delivered humanitarian supplies to Mariupol while Mariupol was besieged.

Ukraine expressed hope that the fighters would be released, but Speaker of the House of Russia Vyacheslav Borodin said, “to bring them to trial,” without evidence that there were “war criminals” among their defenders. You have to do everything to make a call. “

Russia’s major federal investigative agencies said they would “identify nationalists” and cross-examine the military to determine if they were involved in crimes against civilians. The Supreme Court of Russia has also requested the Supreme Court of the State to designate the Azov Battalion of Ukraine as a terrorist organization. The regiment is linked to the far right.

The operation to abandon the steelworks and its tunnels and bunker mazes marked the beginning of the end of the nearly three-month siege that turned Mariupol into a global symbol of both rebellion and suffering...

According to Ukraine, Russian artillery killed more than 20,000 civilians and left the rest of the population (probably a quarter of the prewar population of 430,000 in the southern port city) with food, water, heat and medicine. There was almost no left.

During the siege, Russian troops launched deadly airstrikes at maternity hospitals and theaters where civilians were evacuated. Nearly 600 people may have been killed in the theater..

Full control of Mariupol in the southern part of the eastern region of Donbus will be a more symbolic boost to Russian President Vladimir Putin than a military victory, said former French Deputy Admiral Michel Orhagarai, former French Higher Military Center Director. Said. the study.

“In fact, Mariupol had already fallen,” he said.

But because of the “incredible resistance” of Azofustari’s defenders, Ukraine can also claim that it has taken the lead, he said.

“Both sides can be proud or bragging about the victory. It’s a different kind of victory,” he said.

Already, Ukraine’s presidential adviser, Mihailo Podryak, likened Ukrainian defenders to the very large number of Spartans who opposed the Persian army in ancient Greece. “The 83 days of Mariupol’s defense will go down in history as a 21st century Thermopylae,” he tweeted.

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McQuillan and Yuras Karmanau reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Mstyslav Chernov and Andrea Rosa from Kharkiv, Elena Becatros from Odesa, Lone Cook from Brussels, and other AP staff from around the world contributed.

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