The iconic steel plant that served as the last holdout in Ukraine’s ill-fated struggle to keep Russian troops from conquering the city will be torn down, a separatist leader said Tuesday.
Denis Pushilin, head of the Russia-backed Donetsk People’s Republic, told the Donetsk News Agency the Azovstal plant – four square miles of bunkers, tunnels and industrial space – will be transformed into a park or a technology commercial park.
Pushilin said about 60% of all buildings in Mariupol have been destroyed. The ruined buildings will be demolished and replaced, he said, and the city will be rebuilt as a resort city with Russian aid.
The complete fall of Mariupol to the Russians appeared imminent early Wednesday. The Russian Defense Ministry said 959 holdout soldiers had surrendered since Monday. Pushilin, however, said top commanders in the plan had not yet emerged.
“No matter what emotions some people might feel, and I know that opinions differ, if the enemy laid down arms, his further fate is decided by a court,” Pushilin said during his visit to Mariupol.” If it’s a (Nazi) criminal, it’s a tribunal.”
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►Russia is holding over 3,000 civilians from Mariupol in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman said.
►Ukrainian guerrilla fighters reportedly have killed several high-ranking Russian officers in the southern city of Melitopol, the regional administration said on Telegram.
►Eight civilians were killed in Russian attacks on 45 settlements in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said.
►Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces also fired missiles at the western Lviv region and the Sumy and Chernihiv regions in the northeast. He said the border regions of Ukraine saw Russian “sabotage activity.”
Russian soldier pleads guilty at first war crimes trial
A Russian sergeant pleaded guilty at Ukraine’s first war crimes trial to fatally shooting an unarmed civilian in the northeastern Sumy region four days after the invasion began. Vadim Shishimarin, 21, could get life in prison for shooting the 62-year-old Ukrainian man. Shishimarin was among a group of Russian troops that fled Ukrainian forces on Feb. 28, prosecutors. The Russians allegedly fired at a private car and seized the vehicle, then drove to Chupakhivka, a village about 200 miles east of Kyiv.
On the way, prosecutors say Russian soldiers saw a man walking on the sidewalk and talking on his phone. Shyshimarin was ordered to kill the man so he wouldn’t be able to report them to Ukrainian military authorities. It was not clear who gave the order.
“I was ordered to shoot,” Shyshimarin told investigators on video. “I shot one (round) at him. He falls. And we kept on going.”
Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova previously said her office was readying war crimes cases against 41 Russian soldiers for offenses that included bombing civilian infrastructure, killing civilians, rape and looting.
Finland, Sweden formally apply for NATO membership
Finland and Sweden have formally applied to join NATO, a move driven by security concerns over Russia’s war in Ukraine. The application must now be weighed by the 30 member countries and all must agree for membership to be approved. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed reservations about Finland and Sweden joining. If those objections can be worked out, expedited membership could be granted within a few months.
“I warmly welcome the requests by Finland and Sweden to join NATO. You are our closest partners,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday after a receiving application letters from the two Nordic countries’ ambassadors.
US pushing for regular contact with Brittney Griner, detained WNBA star
The U.S. has yet to establish regular contact with Brittney Griner, the WNBA star who has been detained in Russia for almost three months.
Griner, who plays for the Phoenix Mercury, has been detained – wrongfully, the Biden administration says – in Russia since February after marijuana was allegedly found in her luggage at a Moscow airport.
The 31-year-old faces drug smuggling charges that carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Last week, her pre-trial detention in Russia was extended for a month – at that point, an American consular official was able to meet with Griner.
– Celina Tebor
Contributing: The Associated Press