Russia said on Thursday that 1,730 Ukrainian troops had surrendered this week at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, which appears to be emerging on a crutch after a desperate battle that has become a symbol of the nearly three-month-old war.
Moscow’s Defense Ministry says 70 people have been injured in a hospital in the Russian-controlled region of eastern Ukraine.
The ministry released a video showing tired Ukrainian soldiers coming out of the wide steel work, forcing guards and civilians trapped in tunnels with severe shortages of food, water and medicine after a week-long blockade.
Russian troops crushed those who surrendered and checked their bags as they exited, signaling the effective end of what the Ukrainian government called “heroic” resistance.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says it has registered “hundreds of Ukrainian prisoners of war” from a plant in the port city of Mariupol, which was destroyed by Russian shelling.
Ukraine hopes to exchange Azvastal troops for Russian prisoners. However, pro-Russian authorities in the eastern Donetsk region of Ukraine have suggested that some of them face trial.
Ukrainian prosecutors have so far listed 12,595 alleged war crimes committed by the attackers, including the bombing of a maternity ward in Mariupol and the first trial of a Russian soldier on Wednesday.
Please forgive me
Vadim Shishimarin pleaded guilty to war crimes for shooting dead unarmed 72-year-old Alexander Shelipov in northeastern Ukraine on February 26 – four days after the attack.
The 21-year-old sergeant, who faces a life sentence, was remorseful when he took the dock for a second day Thursday as two other Russian soldiers went on trial elsewhere in Ukraine.
“I know you can’t forgive me, but I apologize to you anyway,” Shishimarin said, addressing Shelipov’s widow in Kiev’s stunned court.
At the fall of Mariupol, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the widespread attack was an “absolute failure” because he had marked an annual celebration of Ukrainian folklore as “Vishavanka Day.”
Wearing an embroidered shirt instead of his usual military khaki top, Zelensky told the Telegram social media platform that his men remained “strong, unwavering, brave and free.”
Zelensky’s disobedience, and the harsh resistance of his army, has earned him an uninterrupted flow of praise from the West and military support. The G7 finance ministers were meeting in Germany to provide more cash assistance.
German Finance Minister Christian Lindner told the Die Welt newspaper that the G7 partners needed to “ensure Ukraine’s prosperity the next day, in a few weeks”.
However, German Chancellor Olaf Schulz said there could be “no shortcut” for Ukraine to become a member of the European Union. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba has condemned his country’s “second-class behavior.”
Russia’s move is already redesigning Europe’s security map.
US President Joe Biden has invited the leaders of Finland and Sweden to discuss their bids to join NATO, after neighboring countries decided to abandon decades of military non-alignment.
“They meet every need of NATO and then some,” Biden told reporters, along with Nordic leaders beside him, offering “full, full, full support of the United States.”
However, NATO member Turkey is “determined” to block applications, its president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, referring specifically to Sweden as a “sanctuary of complete terrorism”.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was “resolving the concerns raised by Turkey”.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the attack was threatening famine outside Europe as well.
Guterres warned that “malnutrition, widespread hunger and famine” could lead to “a crisis that could last for years,” urging Russia to free grain exports from occupied Ukraine.
Russia and Ukraine produce 30 percent of the world’s wheat supply, and the war has already pushed up food prices around the world.
Civilians under fire
Despite their last-ditch resistance in places like Mariupol and Kiev’s successful defense, Ukrainian forces are retreating eastward.
The casualties often come after weeks of fighting over towns and small towns that the Russians surrounded them in slow waves.
In the eastern city of Severodonetsk, Ukrainian civilians continue to suffer casualties from Russian mortar fire.
Nela Kashkina sat in the basement beside the oil lamp and prayed.
“I don’t know how long we can last,” said the 65-year-old former city worker.
“We have no medicine left and many sick people – sick women – need medicine. There is no medicine left.”
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)