Surrendering neo-Nazi Azov Battalion members hailed as ‘heroes’ by Ukraine military
Ukrainian volunteers with the Neo-Nazi paramilitary Azov National Corps with their flags demonstrate their force, during Ukrainian Volunteer Day in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 14, 2020 | Morning Star

Members of the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion besieged in the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol were described Wednesday as “heroes of our time” by the Ukrainian military after they finally surrendered to Russian forces a day earlier.

“Over the past 24 hours, 265 militants have laid down their arms and surrendered, including 51 seriously wounded,” the Russian defense ministry said Wednesday.

Soldiers from the notorious far-right militia have been under siege in the steel plant in the eastern city of Mariupol for nearly three months.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin had guaranteed the Ukrainian fighters would be treated “in accordance with international standards.”

The situation remains unclear, however, because Kiev insisted that a rescue operation was underway with President Volodymyr Zelensky saying that “Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive.

“To get the boys home, the work goes on, and it takes delicacy and time,” he said in a live televised address. It is not clear if he was talking about soldiers already taken to other Russian-controlled locations or soldiers still left in the steel plant or whether he was talking about “delicate” negotiations, a prisoner swap, or some type of raid that might free the members of the Azov Battalion now held by the Russians.

Zelensky has had to walk a fine line when dealing with the Azov Battalion because the right-wing group has threatened, frequently, including on MSNBC television in the U.S., that it will topple his government if he makes too many compromises with the Russians.

Ukraine’s armed forces said that commanders of the neo-fascists based at Azovstal had been ordered to surrender to save the lives of wounded soldiers.

“Measures to rescue defenders who remain on the territory of Azovstal continue,” a Ukrainian government statement said.

According to Ukraine, some 53 seriously wounded fighters had been transferred to a Russian-controlled medical facility with another 211 evacuated to another town also under Russian control. Russian claims are similar but do not match exactly in the numbers of soldiers they say are in each group. The International Red Cross is working to register all of them as prisoners of war.

Efforts were reportedly underway to negotiate prisoner swap deals.

However, some on the ground in Ukraine are reportedly saying that any such agreement must only take place once it has been established that an Azov Battalion member has not been involved in any of the crimes committed by Azov in the region since the 2014 Maidan coup.

Since the time of the coup, as many as 15,000 Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the East have been killed by Ukrainian military units, often under the command of the Azov Battalion.

Russian Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said Wednesday that Azov Battalion members should be excluded from prisoner-of-war swaps and Russian officials said Thursday that they may hold war crimes trials if the situation warrants them.

In the west of Ukraine meanwhile, it was reported that between 10 and 12 Russian cruise missiles had struck a military facility in the Yavoriv district close to the city of Lvov.

The complex was thought to have housed, according to the Russians, a large shipment of U.S. and NATO weapons. It was previously struck in March, with Russia claiming 180 “foreign mercenaries” were killed.

NATO denied having any personnel there, insisting its forces had left Ukraine prior to the Russian invasion of Feb. 24. There is no way to verify whether any of the foreign mercenaries who are in Ukraine were actually in the complex when it was hit. Available reports come from Ukraine and Russia, and both governments have frequently issued propaganda rather than true reports about the actual situation on the ground.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov branded the recent airstrike a “terrorist attack on peace and security near the EU-NATO border.”

Russian air raids also killed eight people in Chernihiv this week, Ukrainian authorities said.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainians also reported Wednesday that a Russian soldier pleaded guilty to war crimes in a Kiev court, the first trial since the latest stage of the war in Ukraine began in February.

Russian army Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin, 21, is seen behind glass during a court hearing in Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Vadim Shishimarin faces life in prison after he allegedly admitted to shooting a 62-year-old man who was riding a bicycle near the city of Chupakhivka. According to prosecutors, Shishimarin, who commanded a unit in a tank division, was ordered to kill the civilian and used a Kalashnikov assault rifle to do so.

Moscow denies that its soldiers target civilians and said that it had not been informed about the hearing. The trial was adjourned and is set to continue Thursday in a larger courtroom.

Also, Russia claimed that U.S. occupying forces in Syria were training jihadists to join the fight in Ukraine. The Kremlin said that at least 500 ISIS fighters and Islamists from Central Asian countries are also set to be deployed against Russian troops in Syria.

The claims could not be independently verified.

This article combines reporting from several articles.


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The Morning Star is the socialist daily newspaper published in Great Britain.

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