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More than 1,000 Ukrainian fighters who surrendered in the battle for the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol have been transferred to Russia “for investigation there”, Russian state media reported on Wednesday.
TASS news agency, citing a police source, reported that at least 100 of the captives are being held in Moscow and that they include “foreign mercenaries”.
“More than 1,000 people from Azovstal have been transferred to Russia. Law enforcement is working with them,” the source said. “Investigators also plan to send a number of other captives to Russia in the future, following a series of face-to-face confrontations.”
The report could not be independently confirmed.
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The Russian Defense Ministry says around 2,400 people went to Mariupol before Russia took control of the steel plant.
The Ukrainian government wants Russia to conduct a prisoner exchange and hand over all those who laid down their arms, but Russian lawmakers want some of the captives to be tried, according to Reuters.
Ukraine’s military intelligence agency said on Tuesday that Russia has so far handed over the bodies of 210 Ukrainian fighters killed in the battle of Mariupol, many of them among the last resisters in the Azovstal steelworks.
The agency did not say how many other bodies would remain in the rubble of the factory.
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Russia now controls the destroyed port city. He started turning over bodies last week. Ukraine said on Saturday the two sides exchanged 320 bodies, each recovering 160. It is unclear whether any other bodies were handed over to Russia.
Ukrainian fighters defended the steelworks for nearly three months before surrendering in May to relentless Russian attacks from land, sea and air.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.