Russo-Ukrainian War 5/27/22

Alleged Ukrainian prisoners on May 18th (Image via Russian Ministry of Defense)

Talks between Ukraine and Russia have stalled over surrendered Ukrainians defending Azovstal. The fate of Mariupol’s defenders, long after the city itself had fallen, was a rallying cry for Western support of Ukraine. Social media was flooded with cries to save Mariupol, and calls reached the Eurovision finals, where Ukraine, represented by the Kalush Orchestra, brought the plea for Mariupol to millions of viewers.

After the evacuation of civilians, pressure from the West led to the evacuation of the wounded. Shortly afterward, the remaining Ukrainian forces surrendered, with the vast majority of the garrison’s leadership and troops capitulating by May 20th. A few holdouts were reported by Russian proxies days after, but Russia had by and large established control over the ruins of Azovstal.

Though Putin initially claimed the garrison would be treated in accordance with international law, there is little precedent for him doing so. Earlier in the war, two captured Britons who served in the Azov regiment had been visibly beaten and forced to deliver speeches on behalf of Russian propaganda. With Russian state media ceaselessly building Azov’s reputation as a neo-Nazi organization, there is a considerable risk of mistreatment and abuse. Additionally, with evidence of filtration camps and mass graves from satellite imagery only growing, officials fear the worst for POWs and civilians.

During a meeting with Austria’s Chancellor, Karl Nehammer, Putin signaled his readiness to discuss a long-awaited prisoner swap. Previous discussions considered a potential swap for Viktor Medvedchuk, a Russian collaborator.

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