KYIV, Ukraine — Russia says more than 1,000 Ukrainian troops have surrendered in the besieged southeastern port of Mariupol.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov said 1,026 troops from the Ukrainian 36th Marine Brigade surrendered at a metals plant in the city.
Russian forces moved on Mariupol in late February and units in the city have been running low on supplies.
Konashenkov said that the 1,026 Ukrainian marines included 162 officers and 47 female personnel and that 151 wounded received medical treatment.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych did not comment on the alleged mass surrender, but said in a post on Twitter that elements of the 36th Marine Brigade had managed to link up with other Ukrainian forces in the city as a result of a “risky maneuver.”
According to the BBC, Aiden Aslin, a British man fighting in the Ukrainian military in Mariupol, called his mother and a friend to say he and his comrades were out of food, ammunition, and other supplies and would surrender.
Russian state television on Wednesday broadcast footage that it said was from the port city showing dozens of men in camouflage outfits walking with their hands up and carrying others on stretchers or in chair holds. One man held a white flag on a staff in one hand and the handle of a stretcher in another. In the background was a tall industrial building with its windows shattered and its roof missing, identified by the broadcaster as the Iliich metalworks.
Russia Prepares for Donbas Push Under New General
Russian troops are now gearing up for a major offensive in the eastern Donbas region, where Moscow-allied separatists and Ukrainian forces have been fighting since 2014, and where Russia has recognized the separatists’ claims of independence. Military strategists say Moscow believes local support, logistics, and the terrain in the region favor its larger, better-armed military, potentially allowing Russia to finally turn the tide in its favor.
Britain’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday that “an inability to cohere and coordinate military activity has hampered Russia’s invasion to date.” Western officials say Russia recently appointed a new top general for the war, Alexander Dvornikov, to try to get a grip on its campaign.
A key piece to that campaign is Mariupol, which lies in the Donbas and which the Russians have besieged and pummeled since nearly the start of the war. Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliak tweeted that the city’s defenders were short of supplies but were “fighting under the bombs for each meter of the city.”
War Crimes Probe Underway
An International Criminal Court investigation into war crimes is underway in Ukraine, including into atrocities revealed after Moscow’s retreat from the Kyiv area, where Ukrainian authorities say more than 720 people were killed, with 403 bodies found in the town of Bucha alone.
ICC prosecutor Karim Khan, who visited Bucha, said in a tweet Wednesday that Ukraine “is a crime scene” and the court must “pierce the fog of war” to determine what has occurred.
Residents in Yahidne, a village near the northern city of Chernihiv, said Russian troops forced them to stay for almost a month in the basement of a school, only allowing them outside to go to the toilet, cook on open fires — and bury those who died in a mass grave.
In one of the rooms, the residents wrote the names of those who perished during the ordeal. The list counted 18 people.
“An old man died near me and then his wife died next,” said resident Valentyna Saroyan. “Then a man died who was lying there, then a woman sitting next to me. … She died as well. Another old man looked so healthy, he was doing exercises, but then he was sitting and fell. That was it.”
Presidents of Four NATO Countries Visit Ukraine
The presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia traveled by train to Kyiv on Wednesday to meet Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The presidents of the four NATO countries on Russia’s doorstep planned to deliver “a strong message of political support and military assistance,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said.
Nauseda, Estonian President Alar Karis, Poland’s Andrzej Duda, and Egils Levits of Latvia also planned to discuss investigations into alleged Russian war crimes, including the massacre of civilians. Nauseda said the leaders had visited Borodyanka, one of the towns near Kyiv where evidence of atrocities has been found.
“This is where the dark side of humankind has shown its face,” he wrote on Twitter. “Brutal war crimes committed by the Russian army will not stay unpunished.”
Latvia Will Provide Drone Training
Latvia says it will train Ukrainian troops to handle drones.
“At the moment, we must do everything we can to promote Ukraine’s victory and to defend its principles of self-determination and sovereignty,” Defense Minister Artis Pabriks said.
He added that two Latvian companies had delivered unmanned aerial vehicles.
Latvia already has provided, among other supplies, Stinger anti-air systems to Ukraine but also weapons, personal equipment, dry food supplies, ammunition, anti-tank weapons, worth more than $222 million, the defense minister said.