Russian-Ukrainian war: Russian troops should redeploy from Mariupol, says Britain

KYIV, Ukraine – As the number of defenders holed up in a steel mill in Mariupol dwindles, Russian commanders will come under increasing pressure to reallocate troops from the strategic southern port city to bolster their offensive in eastern Ukraine, the British Ministry of Defense announced on Friday. .

More than 1,700 defenders of the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol have surrendered since Monday, Russian authorities said, in what appeared to be the latest stage in the nearly three-month siege of the now pulverized port city.

In fighting in the eastern Donbass region, 12 people were killed and 60 homes destroyed when Russia shelled the nearby towns of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, northwest of Luhansk, regional governor Serhiy Haidai said in a message on Friday. from Telegram.

In addition to Thursday’s artillery attack, Russian ground troops attempted to attack Severodonetsk but suffered casualties and retreated, Ukraine’s General Staff said in its morning update.

In Mariupol, an unknown number of defenders remain in the sprawling Azovstal complex, which is the last stronghold of Ukrainian resistance in the city – a target since the start of the invasion that has been under effective Russian control for some time. weather.

If the plant falls, Russia will likely use troops from the city to bolster operations elsewhere in the Donbass industrial region, but the length of fierce resistance will complicate or prolong that maneuver, the UK Defense Ministry said in a statement. daily intelligence report.

“Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol since the start of the war means that Russian forces in the region need to be re-equipped and refurbished before they can be redeployed effectively,” the ministry wrote on Twitter.

“Russian commanders, however, are under pressure to demonstrably achieve operational objectives. This means that Russia is likely to redistribute its forces quickly without adequate preparation, which risks further attrition of forces.”

Analysts said it is likely that most of the Russian forces that were battle-bound there have already left.

However, how long the remaining troops in the Azovstal plant can still hold out is unclear.

In a brief video message on Thursday, the deputy commander of the Azov regiment, which led the defense of the steel plant, said he and other fighters were still inside.

“An operation is underway, the details of which I will not announce,” Svyatoslav Palamar said.

Ukrainian troops, reinforced with Western weapons, thwarted Russia’s initial aim to storm the capital, Kyiv, and put up fierce resistance to Moscow’s forces in the Donbass, which President Vladimir Putin has now aim to capture.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday it had collected personal details of hundreds of soldiers who had surrendered – name, date of birth, next of kin – and registered them as prisoners as part of of its role in ensuring the humane treatment of prisoners of war. under the Geneva Conventions.

Amnesty International said in a tweet that POW status means soldiers “shall not be subjected to any form of torture or ill-treatment”.

At least some of the fighters were taken by the Russians to a former penal colony in territory controlled by Moscow-backed separatists. Others were hospitalized, according to a separatist official.

Russian state television released a video showing what it said were injured Ukrainian soldiers from the Azovstal plant at a hospital in the Donetsk region.

The disheveled men, three to a room, lay in beds while they were fed and cared for by doctors and nurses. A doctor, identified only as Natalya, said most were in serious condition with multiple broken bones and many would need prosthetics.

An unidentified Ukrainian patient grimaced and moaned as a nurse changed a bandage on his leg.

“The most important thing is that the leg was saved,” he said in Russian. “The pain can be endured.”

While Ukraine has expressed hope for a prisoner exchange, Russian authorities have threatened to investigate some of the Azovstal fighters for war crimes and bring them to justice, calling them “Nazis” and of criminals.

The far-right origins of the Azov Regiment were seized upon by the Kremlin as part of an effort to turn the Russian invasion into a battle against Nazi influence in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, in Ukraine’s first war crimes trial, Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old member of a Russian tank unit, told a kyiv court on Thursday that he shot Oleksandr Shelipov, a 62-year-old Ukrainian civilian, in the head on the orders of an officer .

Shishimarin apologized to the victim’s widow, Kateryna Shelipova, who described seeing her husband being shot just outside their house at the start of the Russian invasion.

She told the court she thought Shishimarin deserved life in prison, the maximum possible sentence, but she wouldn’t mind if he was traded as part of a swap deal for the Azovstal defenders. .

Also, more US aid appeared to be on its way to Ukraine when the Senate overwhelmingly approved a $40 billion military and economic aid package for the country and its allies. The House passed it last week. The quick signing of President Joe Biden was certain.

“Help is on the way, really important help. Help that could guarantee victory for the Ukrainians,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

In other developments, General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke by telephone with his Russian counterpart on Thursday for the first time since the start of the war, and they agreed to maintain lines of communication open, the Pentagon said. .

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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