Top commanders from Ukraine’s resistance force in Mariupol have reportedly refused to surrender to Russian troops, leader from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) said Wednesday.
Russia has claimed that some 960 Ukrainian soldiers had surrendered since Monday after being holed up in the Azovstal steel plant for weeks, and in some cases months.
Roughly 80 of the surrendered troops were injured, though only 50 were sent to a hospital in the Russian-occupied town of Novoazovsk in Donetsk.
But according to DPR leader Denis Pushilin, top officials are missing from the list of those who have surrendered.
“Currently, there are no top-rank commanders,” he reportedly told a local news outlet. “They have not left.”
Fox News could not immediately reach Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense to verify the allegations and Ukrainian officials have not corroborated Moscow’s claims that nearly 1,000 Ukrainian troops surrendered.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereschuk took to Telegram Tuesday to say Ukrainian leadership was working to bring 52 wounded Ukrainian soldiers home in a prisoner exchange mission.
Several Russian officials have said there should be no prisoner exchange and some have called for the Azovstal resistance fighters to be executed.
Ukrainian officials have been tight-lipped on whether there are any active talks on prisoner exchanges.
Mariupol city mayor Vadym Boichenko said Wednesday that it was “good news” that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was directly involved in the prisoner exchange mission but said the situation remains “quite difficult.”
“This topic is of a very delicate nature and the negotiation mission is very fragile today,” he said during a briefing, adding he had nothing new to report on the process.
Ukrainian officials have been sounding the alarm that there will a new kind of humanitarian crisis in the port city if Russian troops do not find a way to shore up clean drinking water.
Lack of water, food, electricity and medical accessibility has been an ongoing problem in Mariupol for weeks amid Russia’s near complete destruction of the city.
Biochenko said Maripol now faces an epidemiological challenge and the threat of infectious disease is on the rise.
“The city is on the brink of summer. And summer time requires more water,” he said. “The fact that today the drainage is not working in Mariupol, is adding to [the problem], that is, the sewage is not working.”
There are an estimated 100,000 people still residing in Mariupol.