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Moscow says hundreds of Ukrainian troops in custody; US Senate approves $40 billion in new aid

Patrick J. McDonnell and Jaweed Kaleem, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

KYIV, Ukraine — Russia said Thursday that more than 1,700 Ukrainian fighters had surrendered at a steel plant in the conquered city of Mariupol, even as Ukraine claimed battlefield gains elsewhere, continued its first war crimes trial against a Russian soldier and prepared to launch a second.

The Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol, Russia said, had been taken to a pretrial detention center and at least several commanders remained inside the Azovstal steelworks, which has become a symbol of resistance in the protracted war. The plant was Ukraine’s last redoubt in the devastated port city, whose capture has given Russia a key territorial gain along the southern coast.

The International Red Cross said it had logged information on “hundreds” of Ukrainian prisoners of war from the Azovstal facility. The humanitarian group said its effort was part of an agreement between Ukraine and Russia that began when Ukraine gave up its fight at the plant Tuesday.

The Ukrainian government has kept silent on the number of its fighters who have handed themselves over to Russian forces or who still remain inside the sprawling network of underground tunnels.

“The state is making utmost efforts to carry out the rescue of our service personnel,” said Oleksandr Motuzaynik, a Ukrainian military spokesman. “Any information to the public could endanger that process.”

In Washington on Thursday, the Senate gave final congressional approval to another massive package of aid for Ukraine. The $40 billion allotment includes weapons and humanitarian assistance. Heavy weaponry supplied by the U.S. and allies have made a significant difference in Ukraine’s underdog fight against its larger neighbor.

 

The package — the second multibillion-dollar contribution this year — won rare bipartisan support in Congress, although 11 Republicans voted against it. Most are allies of former President Donald Trump. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., lamented their position and accused them of following Trump’s “soft-on-Putin” playbook, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In Kyiv, the capital, international journalists crowded Thursday into a courthouse where the war crimes trial of Russian Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin continued. In the first such proceeding since Moscow’s Feb. 24 invasion, Shishimarin, 21, has pleaded guilty in the deadly Feb. 28 shooting of an unarmed civilian in the northeastern Sumy region. Shishimarin shot the Ukrainian, who was riding a bicycle, in the head.

In court, Shishimarin said he was following orders and asked for forgiveness Thursday from the dead man’s widow, who said he deserved a life sentence for killing her husband.

Ukrainian officials say dozens of cases are being prepared by prosecutors out of thousands of war crimes they have identified. A second trial was due to open Thursday in Poltava, near Kharkiv, of two Russian soldiers charged with firing rockets at civilian targets in the region.

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