Chris Lange, FISM News
Russians now occupying the destroyed city of Mariupol have returned the bodies of dozens of Ukrainian fighters killed at the Azovstal steel mill to Ukraine, according to an exclusive Associated Press report.
The fighters of the Azov regiment, who held out for nearly three months against ruthless Russian attacks by land, sea, and air, became a symbol of courage and resistance against Moscow’s invasion. DNA testing is now underway in Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv to identify the remains, according to authorities. It is unclear how many bodies, if any, might remain in the bombed-out plant.
The fate of the surviving soldiers who surrendered to Russian forces last month is not known. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said more than 2,500 fighters who defended the plant are now prisoners of war and that Ukraine is working to secure their release.
Russia races to seize Sievierodonetsk
Meanwhile, Russian forces continued to race against the clock in their fight for control of Sievierodonetsk ahead of a Western weapons shipment that could turn the tide in Ukraine’s favor. The eastern city is considered to be the lynchpin of Moscow’s objective in completing its capture of the industrial Donbas region.
Zelenskyy said Ukrainian forces are holding their positions in the city as fierce fighting continues in the streets while Russia attempts to deploy additional forces.
“But it is the 103rd day, and the Ukrainian Donbas stands. It stands firmly,” he said in his nightly video address to the nation.
Zelenskyy also said Russian forces plan to capture the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia – a move that would significantly weaken Ukraine’s standing and allow Moscow’s military to advance toward the center of the country.
“In the Zaporizhzhia region … there is the most threatening situation there,” Zelenskyy said.
Elsewhere, Russian warplanes fired long-range missiles to destroy an armored vehicle repair plant in the town of Lozova in the northeastern Kharkiv region, according to Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, who said Russian aircraft successfully targeted 73 areas of concentration of Ukrainian troops and equipment while Russian artillery struck 431 military targets. The assertions have not yet been verified.
Putin could consider nukes
Foreign policy experts say Russian President Vladimir Putin would only consider using nuclear weapons if he feels there is an “existential threat” to his regime, Fox News reported.
“They could be used, but in very, very specific situations,” former Russian foreign minister Andrei Kozyrev said. “If Russia or one of those countries really threatened in their hearts – existentially, that is … if NATO troops come to Moscow, then probably they will resort to nuclear weapons,” Kozyrev continued, adding, “But there is no existential threat to Russia under the present circumstances.”