Captured Ukrainian Soldiers Face Trial in Russia

Ukrainian soldiers who were taken prisoner during fighting sit inside a defendant's glass cage during a hearing at the Southern District Military Court in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, Wednesday, June 14, 2023. Photo by AP

MOSCOW — More than 20 Ukrainian soldiers who were taken prisoner during fighting in Ukraine went on trial in southern Russia on Wednesday.

The captured soldiers were members of the Azov battalion, an elite Ukrainian armed forces unit that fought Russian troops in the Sea of Azov port of Mariupol. Russia captured Mariupol last year after a three-month battle that reduced most of the city to smoldering ruins.

The last remaining Ukrainian defenders who holed up at a giant steel mill in Mariupol surrendered to Russian forces in May 2022.

Russian authorities have designated the Azov battalion as a terrorist group. The defendants are facing charges of involvement in a terrorist organization and taking part in action to overthrow the Russia-backed authorities in the Donetsk region.

They face sentences ranging from 15 years to life in prison if convicted.

Of the 24 people who have faced the charges, two have been swapped for Russian prisoners of war as part of a prisoner exchange. Of the remaining 22 defendants facing the trial, eight are women, who reportedly worked as cooks for the Azov battalion.

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