|Ukrainian neo-Nazis who surrendered in Azovstal to be tried in Donetsk|
The leader of the Donetsk People's Republic, Denis Pushilin, has confirmed that Ukrainian nationalist and neo-Nazi fighters who surrendered in Azovstal will be tried in Donetsk. "They will be tried in the courts of the Donetsk Republic," Pushilin was quoted as saying by the Sputniknews Telegram channel, Monday (23/5/2022). There were at least 2,430 surrendered from the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol. They consisted of regular Ukrainian soldiers and members of the Azov Battalion, which was known to be neo-Nazi. The thousands of fighters spent a month under siege in Azovstal until they surrendered unconditionally to Russian troops and the Donetsk militia.
The surrender of thousands of members of the Ukrainian Marines and the Azov Battalion began in waves from May 16 to May 21 when Russia declared Azovstal to be in complete control. Meanwhile, Deputy Head of the Russian Duma's CIS Affairs Committee, Viktor Podolatsky, said it would take a month to prepare legal documents before the Ukrainian neo-Nazi militants were brought to justice. Regarding the fate of the Azovstal fighters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov stressed that the exchange of prisoners of war was a military matter.
Any possible request to exchange Ukrainian prisoners from Azovstal for Russian prisoners of war will go through the Ministry of Defense. To date, Russia has no intention of conducting a prisoner exchange. Especially when it comes to the fate of the Ukrainian opposition leader, Viktor Medvedchuk, who is currently being held by the Ukrainian secret service. "Medvedchuk is a Ukrainian citizen who has nothing to do with Russia and is not military," Peskov said. “Ukrainian soldiers and Neo-Nazi Azovs are a different category,” he added explaining the differences between Medvedchuk politicians and those who surrendered in Azovstal.
Medvedchuk led the largest opposition faction in Ukraine's parliament before President Volodymyr Zelensky launched a crackdown on the country's opposition. Zelensky issued a ban on the activity of all dissidents in the country. Medvedchuk is currently being held by the SBU, Ukraine's domestic security agency.
The SBU released video footage of Medvedchuk apparently incriminating former President Petro Poroshenko and his government. Namely related to the partial privatization of the fuel pipeline flowing from Russia and Belarus to Ukraine and to the European Union. Zelensky ordered the nationalization of the infrastructure in February.
In the tape, Medvedchuk also accuses Poroshenko of asking him to regulate illegal coal supplies from the breakaway eastern Donbass region. The politician's lawyer said the video, which was shared publicly, was an image operation for the Ukrainian secret service. Medvedchuk has a reputation for extensive relations with Russia. The Ukrainian elite claimed he was a Moscow collaborator, while Medvedchuk claimed he was a victim of Zelensky's political persecution. After reporting on Medvedchuk's arrest, the SBU released a video, containing Medvedchuk's statement asking that he be exchanged for "the defenders and residents of Mariupol." He was referring to Ukrainian troops at the time being blockaded at Azovstal, a heavily fortified steel factory in the port city of Mariupol.
Ukrainian troops surrendered last week, with Moscow reportedly arresting nearly 2,500 people, including members of the controversial Azov nationalist battalion. Ukrainian officials described the handover as an "evacuation" and claimed the fighters would be exchanged for Russian prisoners of war held by Ukraine. The Ukrainian elite implied Kiev had agreed a swap deal with Moscow before Zelensky ordered his troops to surrender. Russia did not confirm Ukraine's claim, while several Russian officials said the Azov fighters should be tried on war crimes charges. Russia launched an offensive against Ukraine in late February, following Kiev's failure to implement the terms of the 2014 Minsk agreement, and Moscow's eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.
The protocol brokered by Germany and France was designed to give breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state. The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine formally declare itself a neutral nation that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists Russia's attacks are completely unwarranted and denies claims it plans to retake the two republics by force.