Ukraine-Russia War Update: Azovstal fighters seek prisoner exchange; Kyiv preps for first war crimes trial

by Chris Lange

Chris Lange, FISM News


Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vershchuk said negotiations are underway to evacuate badly-wounded Azov battalion forces trapped inside the Azovstal steelworks factory in exchange for the release of Russian prisoners of war.  Vershchuk stated that there are a few options on the table but “none of them is ideal.”

The negotiations come amidst continued airstrikes on the plant in Mariupol, as Russia continues its arduous attempt to fully overtake the key city. 

Russians have blocked all evacuation routes out of the city, according to Petro Andriushchenko, an advisor to Mariupol’s mayor. He said that, following months of attacks that virtually leveled the entire city, only a handful of apartment buildings remain and that there is little food and potable water. Andriushchenko also relayed that some surviving residents are cooperating with occupying Russian forces in exchange for food.

“The occupiers turned Mariupol into a medieval ghetto,” Mayor Vadym Boychenko said in remarks published by City Hall, as he called for a complete evacuation of the city.

Kyiv preps for first war crimes trial

Kyiv is preparing for its first war crimes trial involving a captured Russian soldier accused of gunning down an unarmed Ukrainian civilian who was riding a bicycle. Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said her office charged Sgt. Vadin Shyshimarin, 21, in the killing of an unarmed 62-year-old civilian, according to a World News report.

Four days into the war in February, Shyshimarin, who served with a tank unit, allegedly fired on the civilian through a car window in the village of Chupakhivka in northeast Ukraine. Venediktova said the soldier could face up to 15 years in prison. The date the trial will begin has not yet been announced.

There are currently more than 10,700 ongoing investigations into alleged war crimes committed by Russians in Ukraine with more than 600 suspects identified so far.

Russia continues attacks on civilians

Elsewhere, overnight airstrikes in the northern Chernihiv region killed three people and injured a dozen more, according to local media citing emergency services. The regional governor said the strikes on the town of Novhorod-Siverskyi damaged a boarding school, dormitory and administrative building.

The Ukrainian military reported that Russian forces unleashed artillery and grenade launchers at Ukrainian troops near Zaporizhzhia, The Associated Press reported. The city has served as a refuge for civilians fleeing from Mariupol.

The Ukrainian general staff also reported that Russia has achieved “partial success” in its advance in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine, where fighting has been ongoing since the war began on Feb. 24. The staff noted, however, that Ukrainian forces were able to repel nine attacks by Russian forces, destroying several drone and military vehicles

Ukrainian forces continue to target Russian air defenses and resupply vessels on Snake Island in the Black Sea in an effort to prevent Moscow from controlling the coastline, the British Ministry of Defense said. Ukraine said it also shot down a cruise missile targeting the Black Sea port city of Odesa.

DOD seeks $773 billion defense budget

Meanwhile, the Department of Defense submitted a $773 billion defense budget request to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday with a focus on threats from Russia and China. The DOD described China as “the pacing challenge” for the U.S. 

“This is a very healthy budget and provides a significant capability,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said, according to a Pentagon press release.  

Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the committee that this is the most uncertain time he has seen in almost 43 years in uniform. 

“We are now facing two global powers, China and Russia, each with significant military capabilities, both who intend to fundamentally change the current rules-based order,” Milley said. “We are entering a world that is becoming more unstable, and the potential for significant international conflict between great powers is increasing, not decreasing.”

Also on Wednesday, Austin met with his British counterpart Ben Wallace at the Pentagon in a  show of “transatlantic cooperation and regional security” in the face of Russia’s war on Ukraine. According to a Pentagon readout of the meeting, the two discussed the provision of security assistance to Ukraine and touted the strong and deepening U.S.-UK defense relationship.