Five top commanders who led the defense of the Azovstal steel plant during the Battle of Mariupol and surrendered to the Russians in May 2022 are returning to Ukraine with President Volodymyr Zelensky, sparking a furious response from the Kremlin.

The five had been released from Russian captivity in September 2022 and were being held in Turkey as part of an agreement whereby they were to stay there for the duration of the war.

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President of Zelensky said: “We are returning home from Turkey and bringing our heroes home.”

The five commanders are Denys Prokopenko, leader of the Azov Regiment; his deputy Svyatoslav Palamar; Serhiy Volynsky, commander of the 36th Separate Marine Brigade; Oleg Khomenko, senior Azov officer; and Denys Shlega, Commander of the 12th Brigade. 

 

 

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Russia responded angrily to the news. "The return of Azov commanders from Turkey to Ukraine is nothing but a direct violation of the terms of existing agreements," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

He said both Ukraine and Turkey had violated the terms of the agreement, under which the men were supposed to remain in Turkey until the end of the conflict.

Peskov said the return was linked to the "failure of the counter-offensive" launched by Ukraine, and Ankara's desire to show its "solidarity" ahead of a July 11-12 NATO summit in Vilnius.

"Preparations for the NATO summit are underway and of course there has been a lot of pressure on Turkey," he said.

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Kyiv has in recent weeks been weakened by an ammunition shortage and vital US aid remains blocked by political wrangling in the US Congress.

The Azovstal defenders held out against a Russian siege while outnumbered and outgunned for about two months, distracting the enemy’s forces and preventing them from moving in other directions.

On May 16, 2022, the commanders of units stationed at Azovstal received an order from the higher command echelon to save the lives of Ukrainian soldiers, given the perilous situation.

At midnight on May 17, they surrendered. About 1,700 defenders were evacuated from Azovstal.

According to the terms of the exchange with the Russian Federation, the five top commanders were to remain in Turkey under the personal protection of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan until the end of the war.

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President Zelensky met the defenders at the Istanbul airport and congratulated them on their return. “I congratulate you! You are our heroes. I’m very glad for your return to your homeland. Glory to Ukraine!” the President said.

UPDATE: Zelensky and all five commanders are in Lviv.

 

 

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Comments (8)

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Jackson Harper
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Well being that Russia denies there is actually a war, they call it a special military action, then there is no violation because there is no war to be held to the end of right! Dumb Russians.

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Zviadi
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Russian itself violated international law , including the Charter of the United Nations by invading Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova etc. Hope Putin will be soon brought to Hague.

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Javier Chacone
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I believe Russia and ALL the Russian people SHOULD SUFFER the consequences of Putin and the people's compliance of his atrocities!! I would have attacked Moscow by now without any fear whatsoever! Russia can't even win against Ukraine! Let them fight the US, Germany, France, Italy, Finland, Sweden, Norway, England, Italy, Spain! They won't stand a chance!!!

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David
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What a pathetic duplicitous claim by Russia.
Russia was first to violate the agreement on 29 July 2022. On that day Russian commanders premeditated and implemented the cold blooded murder of Azov brigade soldiers immediately after they were sent to a another prison in Molodizhne near Olenivka, Donetsk Oblast, which was destroyed with pre=positioned explosives, killing 53 Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) and leaving 75 wounded.
There, exposed for the whole world to see, was weak, unforgivable Russian duplicity and a major war crime. It was also an unforgivable major failure of the Red Cross who were negligent and yet full of weak excuses.
That war crime must not go uninvestigated or unpunished.

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I support
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The fact he went and brought them home that's classy and bold . So any turd that criticizes him are not worth the time. The man is the right man for the right time. He did not run away he dug in and stayed to save his people that's grit. The fact that this man was an actor and is now the greatest wartime leader since Churchill is a awesome twist of fate. Makes you believe in hope and that is powerful. Slava Ukraine 🇺🇦

I support
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@I support, welcome home your heros! Glory to the hero's!

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JS
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@I support,

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Robert akin
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Welcome Home. You are hero's to the entire world. God's speed in your victory.

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Oslo
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Welcome home! Slava Ukraine 🇺🇦

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Imokru2
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Outrageous! We all know that Russia lives up to its agreements.
Remember when Putin and Clinton got Ukraine to give up their nuclear weapons and both countries promised to provide security to Ukraine?

Jojo
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@Imokru2, Clinton and Yeltsin.

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