Russia says 265 Ukraine troops surrendered at Azovstal

The ministry added that those in need of medical care were transferred to a hospital in the town of Novoazovsk.

FILE: Kraken Ukrainian special forces unit Soldiers talk to a man at a destroyed bridge on the road near the village of Rus'ka Lozova, north of Kharkiv, on May 16, 2022.  Picture: Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP.

MOSCOW - Russia said on Tuesday that 265 Ukrainian soldiers, including several dozen wounded troops, surrendered at the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Ukraine's port city of Mariupol.

"Over the past 24 hours, 265 militants laid down their arms and surrendered, including 51 heavily wounded," the defence ministry said.

The ministry added that those in need of medical care were transferred to a hospital in the town of Novoazovsk.

Asked by reporters on Tuesday whether the Ukrainian soldiers will be treated as war criminals or prisoners of war, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman did not give an answer.

Putin "guaranteed that they would be treated according to the relevant international laws," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Separately, the speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, said that "Nazi criminals should not be subject to a prisoner exchange".

While he did not mention Azovstal in particular, Moscow has on numerous occasions said that members of the Azov Battalion -- considered "Nazi" by Russian authorities -- are among the soldiers trapped at the steelworks.

"Regarding the Nazis, our position must remain unchanged: they are war criminals and we must do everything to bring them to justice," Volodin said on messaging app Telegram.

Ukraine's defence ministry said late Monday that 264 Ukrainian fighters were evacuated to Russia-controlled territory, including 53 "heavily wounded" troops.

Ukraine's Deputy Defence Minister Ganna Malyar said they would be subject to an "exchange procedure".

Last month Moscow claimed control of Mariupol after a weeks-long siege, but hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers remained holed up in underground tunnels beneath the huge Azovstal industrial zone, blocked by Russian troops.