Russia says more Ukrainians are surrendering in Mariupol; US reopens embassy in Kiev

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KYIV/MARIUPOL – Russia said on Wednesday that nearly 700 Ukrainian fighters had surrendered in Mariupol, while the United States became the last Western country to reopen its embassy in Kiev after a three-month shutdown.

More than a day after Ukraine announced it had ordered its garrison in Mariupol to abdicate, the ultimate outcome of Europe’s bloodiest battle in decades remained unresolved.

Ukrainian officials declined to publicly comment on the fate of fighters who had made their last stand at the Azovstal steel plant while holding out when Mariupol was taken over by Russian forces.

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“The state is doing everything it can to save our military personnel,” military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzaynik said at a news conference. “Any information to the public could jeopardize that process.”

Russia said 694 more fighters surrendered overnight, bringing the total number of people who had laid down their arms to 959.

The leader of the pro-Russian separatists who control the area, Denis Pushilin, was quoted by local news agency DNA as saying the chief commanders were still at the factory.

Ukrainian officials on Tuesday confirmed the surrender of more than 250 fighters, but did not say how many more were inside.

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the Red Cross and the United Nations were involved in talks, but did not provide details.

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Russia has focused on the southeast during recent offensives after it withdrew from Kiev, where the United States, in a further sign of normalization, said it had resumed operations at its embassy on Wednesday.

“The Ukrainian people… have defended their homeland during the unscrupulous invasion of Russia, and as a result, the Stars and Stripes are flying over the embassy again,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

A small number of diplomats would initially return to man the mission, but consular operations will not resume immediately, embassy spokesman Daniel Langenkamp said.

Canada, Britain and others have also recently resumed embassy activities.

But the surrender of the steel plant allows Russian President Vladimir Putin to claim a rare victory.

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It also marks the imminent end of a nearly three-month siege of the port city of more than 400,000 people, where tens of thousands died in Russian bombings, according to Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials have discussed arranging a prisoner swap, but Moscow says no such deal has been struck for the fighters, many from a far-right unit.

Russia says more than 50 wounded fighters have been taken to hospital for treatment and others taken to prison, both in Ukrainian cities held by pro-Russian separatists.

The Russian Defense Ministry posted videos of its alleged Ukrainian fighters being treated in hospital after surrendering in Azovstal.

One man lying in bed said he had access to food and doctors, while a second said he had bandages and had no complaints about his treatment. It was not possible to determine whether the men spoke freely.

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The Kremlin says Putin personally guarantees the humane treatment of those who surrender. Other Russian politicians have called for them to be imprisoned and even executed.


As reaction to the war continued to ripple across Europe, Finland and Sweden formally applied to join NATO, bringing about the expansion that Putin has long cited as a main reason for launching the “special military operation” of February.

US Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith told Sky News that the accession process needed to be accelerated.

“I think we would like to see it in a few months. That’s the goal,” she says.

But NATO member Turkey’s president said Sweden should not expect Turkey to approve its offer unless it returns “terrorists”, Kurdish militants and followers of Fethullah Gülen, and Swedish and Finnish delegations should not come to Turkey to argue otherwise. convince.

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Finland, which shares a 1,300 km (810 mi) border with Russia, and Sweden were both militarily non-aligned during the Cold War.

Although Russia had threatened retaliation against the plans, Putin said on Monday that their NATO membership would not be a problem unless the alliance sends more troops or weapons there.

And in an effort to reduce energy dependency, the European Commission has announced a €210 billion ($220 billion) plan for Europe to end its dependence on Russian oil, gas and coal by 2027, including plans to more than double the EU’s renewable energy capacity by 2030.

Meanwhile, Google became the last major Western company to pull out of Russia, saying the local unit filed for bankruptcy and was forced to shut down operations after its bank accounts were seized.

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On the front, Russian troops have left the area around Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, in recent weeks.

“We have had some success in these directions,” Zelenskiy’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak told MSNBC.

Nevertheless, Moscow has continued its main offensive, trying to capture more territory in the Donbas region that it claims on behalf of separatists.

Mariupol, the main port for the Donbas, is the largest city Russia has captured to date, giving Moscow complete control of the Sea of ​​Azov and an unbroken swath of territory in eastern and southern Ukraine.

The near-total destruction of the city demonstrated the Russian tactic of raining fire on population centers.

Human Rights Watch said it had documented cases of apparent war crimes committed by Russian forces in the Kiev and Chernihiv regions from late February to March, including summary executions, torture and other serious abuses.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov and the Russian Defense Ministry did not respond to requests for comment on the report. Moscow denies targeting civilians and says, without evidence, that signs of atrocities were staged to discredit its troops. ($1 = 0.9550 euros)

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets and Max Hunder in Kiev and a Reuters journalist in Mariupol; Additional reporting by Reuters agencies; Writing by Peter Graff, Angus MacSwan and Costas Pitas; Editing by Nick Macfie, Philippa Fletcher and Rosalba O’Brien)

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