Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk is negotiating an unusual swap deal with the Russian side – Russian prisoners of war for seriously wounded Ukrainian soldiers from the Azovstal plant in the port city of Mariupol.
“As a first step, we offered the Russians the following exchange: we transport our seriously wounded boys in a humanitarian corridor from Azovstal,” Vereshchuk said, according to Ukrajinska Pravda. At the same time, the Ukrainian military is releasing Russian prisoners of war “according to standard rules for their exchange”. The negotiations on this were still ongoing.
In the past few days, there have been several reports of the suffering of the wounded Ukrainian soldiers in the steelworks. According to a paramedic, there is now an absolute shortage of medication.
The sprawling steel mill is the last bastion of Ukrainian troops in the badly damaged port city of Mariupol. The Russian military is demanding that the defenders surrender, while the Ukrainian troops categorically refuse.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sees significant progress in efforts to secure international security guarantees for his country. This could ensure the political neutrality of Ukraine demanded by Moscow in a post-war period.
“We are negotiating with the world’s leading nations to give Ukraine confidence in security for decades to come,” Zelenskyy said in his daily video address on Wednesday evening. Among other things, this topic was discussed at the G7 meeting on May 8, in which Ukraine took part for the first time.
“This is now the first time in the history of our state that such guarantees can be recorded,” said Zelenskyy. And not in any memoranda or unclear formulations, “but concrete guarantees”.
These guarantees are “not only legally valid, but also formulated in such a way that it is clear: what exactly, who specifically and how specifically (Ukraine) is guaranteed”.
The Russian army launched its offensive against Ukraine on February 24. One of Moscow’s demands to end the hostilities is a clear commitment by Kiev to political neutrality, for which the country is seeking strong international security guarantees.
Probably to facilitate its own attacks, the Russian military has called on international organizations to evacuate places in eastern Ukraine. “In view of the looming catastrophic humanitarian situation of most civilians in Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, we call on the international community, the UN, the OSCE and the International Committee of the Red Cross to immediately take all measures for the quick and safe evacuation of civilians from these cities under the initiate control of the Ukrainian armed forces,” Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev of the Defense Ministry in Moscow was quoted as saying by the Interfax agency.
According to Mizinzew, the Ukrainian troops have entrenched themselves in these places and are using their own civilian population as a living shield.
Around 90,000 civilians were staying in Slowjansk and Kramatorsk. Kramatorsk and Sloviansk are considered the cornerstones of the Ukrainian defensive lines in eastern Ukraine.
Russian and Ukrainian troops have once again engaged in bitter fighting in the region between Cherson and Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine. The defenders gave the Russian attackers “no opportunity to advance,” according to the Ukrainian military leadership.
In the course of the fighting, at least 23 Russian soldiers were killed and two tanks were destroyed, as was an ammunition depot, the Unian agency quoted from the statement. The information could not be independently verified.
Regardless of the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Kyiv area, Mayor Vitali Klitschko fears a new attack on the Ukrainian capital “at any time”. In a conversation with the US broadcaster CNN on Thursday night, Klitschko did not even rule out the use of tactical nuclear weapons. Kyiv remains the main target of the Russian military.
“And as long as there is war in Ukraine, we cannot give a Ukrainian any guarantees,” said the former world boxing champion. “Right now, safety is our top priority,” he said.
Although the country is being defended by “our warriors”, the risk remains. “And without our partners, without the US and the European states, we cannot survive.”
Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and her colleagues from the G7 group of leading democratic industrial nations will be discussing the effects of the Russian war of aggression starting this Thursday in Wangels on the Baltic Sea (7:00 p.m.). The foreign ministers of Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, Dmytro Kuleba and Nicu Popescu, are said to be present at the talks at times.
In Helsinki, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö wants to announce his position on his country’s possible NATO membership. The announcement is considered groundbreaking as to whether Finland will decide to apply to join the military alliance in the wake of the Russian war of aggression. Sweden is also considering joining NATO.
In Tokyo, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU Council President Charles Michel meet Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. At the 28th EU-Japan summit, the joint sanctions against Russia and aid for Kyiv will be discussed, among other things.