Invasion Day 85 Updates
- The Red Cross claims to have registered hundreds of captured Ukrainian fighters as prisoners of war.
- A Russian soldier on trial for war crimes asks for forgiveness from the widow of a Ukrainian civilian.
- 4 killed in Severodonetsk, Luhansk province; bus driver killed in Kursk, Russia.
- G7, UN officials meet separately, with the release of Ukrainian food exports in mind.
- Biden meets with leaders of Finland and Sweden, excited about their NATO bids.
The Russian military said Thursday that more Ukrainian fighters making a last stand in Mariupol have surrendered, bringing the total number of those who left their stronghold to 1,730, while the Red Cross said it recorded hundreds of them as prisoners of war.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said registrations of Ukrainian prisoners of war, which included wounded combatants, began on Tuesday as part of an agreement between Russia and Ukraine.
The Geneva-based aid agency, which has experience dealing with prisoners of war and prisoner exchanges, however said its team had not transported the fighters to “the places where they are being held”, which was not specified.
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The Ukrainian fighters who emerged from the crumbling steelworks of Azovstal after being ordered by their army to abandon the last bastion of resistance in the now razed port city face an uncertain fate. Some were taken by the Russians to a former penal colony in territory controlled by Moscow-backed separatists.
While Ukraine has said it hopes to get the soldiers back in a prisoner swap, Russia has threatened to put some of them on trial for war crimes.
The Red Cross cited rules under the Geneva Conventions that should allow the organization to interview prisoners of war “without witnesses” and that visits with them should not be “unduly restricted”.
“He was everything to me”
In kyiv, a Russian soldier facing the first war crimes trial since the start of the war in Ukraine testified on Thursday that he shot a civilian on the orders of two officers and begged his victim’s widow to forgive him.
“I realize you can’t forgive me, but I beg your pardon,” said Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, 21 years old.
The woman, Kateryna Shelipova, said her 62-year-old husband, Oleksandr Shelipov, had come out to check on what was going on when gunshots rang out just outside their house. When the shooting stopped soon after, she came out to find her husband shot dead.
“He was everything to me. He was my defender,” she said.
Shishimarin could face life in prison after pleading guilty on Wednesday to shooting the Ukrainian man in the head through an open car window in a village in the northeastern region of Sumy on February 28, four days after the start of the Russian invasion.
Shishimarin said he initially disobeyed his immediate commander’s order to shoot the unarmed civilian, but had no choice but to follow the order when it was repeated. forcefully by another officer. The officer reportedly insisted that the Ukrainian man, who was talking on his mobile phone, be able to report their location to the Ukrainian forces.
Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova previously said her office was preparing war crimes cases against 41 Russian soldiers for offenses including bombing civilian infrastructure, killing civilians, raping and looting. The prosecution was being closely watched as possible war crimes could eventually be brought before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Victims in the Donbass, the Russian Kursk
Ukraine’s military made no mention of Mariupol during its morning briefing on Thursday, saying only that Russian forces were still continuing their offensive on various sections of the eastern front, but were being successfully repelled.
In the eastern region of Donbass, which has been the center of recent fighting as Russian offensive forces clashed with fierce Ukrainian resistance, four civilians were killed and three injured in the city of Severodonetsk during a Russian bombardment, said Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai. .
On the Russian side of the border, the governor of Kursk province said a truck driver had been killed and several other civilians injured in shelling from Ukraine. Separatist authorities in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine said two civilians were killed and five injured, also by Ukrainian shelling in the past 24 hours.
In Moscow, Russia’s top prosecutor asked the country’s Supreme Court to designate the Ukrainian Azov regiment – among the troops that made up the Azovstal garrison – as a terrorist organization. The regiment has roots in the extreme right.
Diplomatically, Finland and Sweden could become NATO members within months, although objections from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threaten to disrupt matters. Turkey accuses the two countries of harboring Kurdish militants.
US President Joe Biden met Thursday at the White House with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö.
“They meet all NATO requirements, and then some,” Biden said at the start, adding that “having two new NATO members in the High North will make our alliance more secure.”
G7 launches initiative to boost global food supply
Finance ministers from major Group of Seven economies, including Canada’s Chrystia Freeland, were in Koenigswinter, Germany on Thursday to deal with the immediate effects of Russia’s war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic, outpacing their more ambitious plans to reform the global economy.
A refugee crisis, high inflation, food insecurity exacerbated by war and climate change, and the ramifications of a multi-year pandemic are just some of the issues catching the attention of leaders.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the blockade of the Black Sea and Sea of Azov ports have led to a sharp increase in food and energy prices which is contributing to slower growth and threat of global stagflation – while inflation and unemployment are high and economic output is low.
Both countries are huge exporters of wheat, barley and sunflower oil, with disrupted food and fertilizer supplies pushing up already high prices and threatening food insecurity in Africa, the Middle East and in parts of Asia.
German Development Minister Svenja Schulze said after meeting her counterparts that the countries were launching a new Global Alliance for Food Security which aims in part to tackle the impact of the invasion. The World Bank is helping to implement the project.
Schulze said the goal is to better coordinate the efforts of aid donors and ensure that impending crises are not overlooked.
She said the G7 will seek to onboard as many partners as possible, including emerging countries that may have supplies. The alliance “is really open. It’s not a closed club”.
Two days of meetings continue Thursday at the United Nations, also in an effort to help mobilize a global response to the food security crisis stemming from the Russian invasion.