After the end of his official visit to Turkey, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, today, Saturday, was accompanied by five Commanders of the Ukrainian battalion “Azov” Those who surrendered from the Azovstal laboratory in Mariupol, southeastern Ukraine, and were forced to live in Turkey under the terms of a prisoner exchange last year.
“We will return home from Turkey and bring our heroes home,” said Zelensky, who met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday in Istanbul for talks.
He also added on the Telegram messaging application, “Ukrainian soldiers Denis Prokopenko, Svyatoslav Palamar, Serhiy Volynsky, Ole Khomenko and Denis Schliha. They will finally be with their relatives.”
Azovstal plant fighters accompanied by the Ukrainian president on the private plane that took him from Turkey to Kiev – Reuters
Zelensky did not say why the leaders were allowed to go home now.
Ukraine’s so-called heroic commanders were at the forefront of efforts last year to defend the port city of Mariupol, the largest city captured by Russia during the military operation. Thousands of civilians were killed inside Mariupol when Russian forces reduced the city to rubble during a three-month siege.
Kiev finally ordered the Ukrainian defenders, who had been holding out in tunnels and shelters beneath a steel plant, to surrender in May last year.
While Moscow released some of them in September in a prisoner exchange brokered by Ankara, the terms of which oblige these leaders to stay in Turkey until the end of the war.
Russia: Their return is a violation of the agreements
Conversely, it was considered Russia The return of Azov fighters from Turkey to Ukraine is a violation of the terms of the existing agreements, stressing that the terms of return have been violated by the Turkish and Ukrainian sides.
Zelensky escorts home the leaders of the Battle of Azovstal from Turkey
It is noteworthy that the Azov battalion was assigned to defend the “Azovstal” steel complex in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, before it was taken over by Russian forces after fierce fighting that lasted for weeks, which ended with the Russian forces taking control of it, in its biggest “victory” since February 2022.
The pro-Russian leader of Donetsk, Denis Pushlin, said in September of last year that after the exchange of prisoners with Kiev, 56 people were released, including 55 military personnel, as “five of them are from Donbass and the rest are from the Russian forces.” 215 people were extradited to Ukraine, including the commanders of the “Azov” regiment.
For his part, Erdogan announced the exchange process, as Hurriyet newspaper wrote last January that the Azov militants are still in Turkey, which Russia insisted on in accordance with the agreements.
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