Moscow delivered to kyiv 45 Ukrainian soldiers who had fallen prisoners in the battle of the Azovstal steel works during the siege of Mariupol in 2022reported this Saturday the president Volodimir Zelensky.
“Today, our team managed to bring back 45 of our warriors from Russian captivity. 42 Ukraine male defenders and 3 female defenders. They all defended Azovstal. National Guards. 35 privates and sergeants, 10 officers,” said the Ukrainian president in his usual last-minute speech. “We must and will recover all our people from Russian captivity! he added. I am grateful to our team involved in the trades.”
precisely this Saturday three pilots of the Russian Aerospace Forces who were imprisoned in Ukraine were returned to Russia, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement. “As a result of a complex negotiation process, three Russian servicemen, pilots of the Russian Aerospace Forces, who were in danger of death in captivity, were returned from the territory controlled by the Kiev regime,” said the department headed by Sergei Shoigu.
The Russian and Ukrainian authorities have carried out several prisoner exchanges, one of the few agreements reached between the parties since the outbreak of the war, started by Russia at the end of February 2022.
“We are bringing 45 of our own back home: 42 men and three women defenders of the Azovstal steelworks. They all are members of the National Guard detachment established on the Azov coast nine years ago”, wrote the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak on Telegram.
“Among them there are female warriors who got married during the defense of Mariupol, at the Azovstal steelworks. There is also a warrior who, prior to the full-scale invasion, spent two and a half years in Russian captivity after being taken prisoner during Operation Shyrokyne. Later, he was released from his captivity and immediately returned to his unit. He was again taken prisoner at the Azovstal steel plant, and today he is coming home,” Yermak added.
According to the news agency ukrinformUkraine has recovered 2,005 people from Russian captivity since the start of the war.
The heroes of Azovstal
The Azovstal Steel Plant, one of the largest in Europe, located in the city of Mariupol, in eastern Ukraine, went down in history as a symbol of Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion.
Some 2,000 fighters resisted attacks by the Russian army for weeks, entrenched in the underground maze of the Azovstal factory with hundreds of civilianswhen the rest of the city had fallen after a devastating siege.
Russia’s goal was to take Mariupol, a strategic port on the Azov Seato ensure the union between its forces from Crimea – the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014 – and the secessionist areas of Donbas.
On April 21, 2022, the Kremlin announced the conquest of the city that its forces had been besieging and shelling since the beginning of March, leaving it without vital infrastructure, water, electricity and heating.
Soldiers sheltering in the Azovstal steelworks finally they surrendered in May 2022 running out of food, ammunition and medicine, but they remained heroes in the eyes of the Ukrainians. Some were later released in prisoner exchanges with Russian forces, and others are still being held by Moscow. According to kyiv, Mariupol is 90% destroyed and at least 20,000 people died.
With information from AFP, EFE and EuropaPress
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