The iconic steel mill, the last line of defense in Ukraine’s ill-fated fight to stop Russian troops from conquering the city, will be dismantled, a separatist leader said on Tuesday.
The head of the Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushlin, told the Donetsk news agency that the Azovstal factory – four square miles of bunkers, tunnels and industrial spaces – will be transformed into a park or a technology business park.
About 60 percent of the buildings in Mariupol have been destroyed, Pushlin said. Destroyed buildings will be demolished and replaced, and the city will be rebuilt as a resort city with Russian help, he said.
The complete fall of Mariupol to the Russians appeared imminent earlier on Wednesday. The Russian Defense Ministry said 959 recalcitrant soldiers had surrendered since Monday. However, Pushlin said the planned top commander has yet to emerge.
“Whatever emotions some people may have, and I know that opinions differ, if the enemy lays down his arms, his further fate will be decided by the courts,” Pushlin said during his visit to Mariupol. In the case of a (Nazi) criminal, this is a court. “
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► The Ukrainian human rights monitor says Russia is holding more than 3,000 civilians in Mariupol, in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.
► The regional government said on Telegram that Ukrainian guerrilla fighters reportedly killed several senior Russian military officers in the southern city of Melitopol.
► The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces stated that Russia attacked 45 settlements in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, killing 8 civilians.
►Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian troops also fired missiles at the western Lviv region and the Sumy and Chernihiv regions in the northeast. He said the Ukrainian border area had seen “sabotage” by Russia.
Russian soldier pleads guilty in first war crimes trial
Four days after the invasion began, a Russian sergeant pleaded guilty in Ukraine’s first war crimes trial for shooting and killing an unarmed civilian in the northeastern region of Sumy. Vadim Shishimarin, 21, could face life in prison for shooting the 62-year-old Ukrainian man. Prosecutor, Shishimarin, was one of the Russian troops who fled the Ukrainian army on February 28. The Russians allegedly fired at and impounded a private car before driving to Chupakhivka, a village about 200 miles east of Kiev.
On the way, Russian soldiers saw a man walking on the sidewalk and making a phone call, prosecutors said. Shyshimarin was ordered to kill the man so he could not report to Ukrainian military authorities. It is unclear who gave the order.
“I was ordered to shoot,” Shyshimarin told investigators in the video. “I shot him. He fell. We moved on.”
Ukraine’s Attorney General Iryna Venediktova previously said her office was preparing to file war crimes cases against 41 Russian soldiers, including bombing civilian infrastructure, killing civilians, rape and looting.
Finland, Sweden formally apply to join NATO
Finland and Sweden have formally applied to join NATO, a move over security concerns over Russia’s war in Ukraine. The application must now be weighed by the 30 member states, and all must agree to approve membership. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed reservations about Finland and Sweden joining. If these objections can be resolved, expedited membership can be granted within a few months.
“I warmly welcome the requests from Finland and Sweden to join NATO. You are our closest partners,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday after receiving the application letters from the ambassadors of the two Nordic countries .
US pushes for regular contact with detained WNBA star Brittney Griner
The United States has yet to establish regular contact with WNBA star Britney Greener, who has been detained in Russia for nearly three months.
Griner, who plays for the Phoenix Mercury, has been wrongfully detained in Russia since February after marijuana was found in his luggage at a Moscow airport.
The 31-year-old faces drug smuggling charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Last week, her pretrial detention in Russia was extended for a month — at that time, a U.S. consular officer was able to meet with Greener.
Contributed by: Associated Press