Russia returns bodies of Mariupol defenders to Ukraine

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Russia returns bodies of Mariupol defenders to Ukraine

The bodies of fighters killed during Ukraine’s last-ditch defense of the ruined city of Mariupol are being returned to Kyiv, a Ukrainian commander said Monday.

Russia has returned dozens of bodies found in the Azovstal steel works to Ukrainian custody, according to Maksym Zhorin, a former leader of the Azov Regiment whose troops were involved in the defense of Mariupol.

Ukrainian officials are using DNA testing to identify the bodies, Zhorin said.

Some of the bodies were reportedly severely burned.

The return of the fighters’ remains was apparently part of an effort between the warring parties to exchange human remains.

The sprawling Azovstal complex — a Soviet-era steelworks situated on the Sea of Azov — became known as a Ukrainian Alamo in the final weeks of Russia’s siege on Mariupol. Fighters with the Azov Regiment and Ukrainian marines held out against several Russian assaults and nearly constant air strikes before ultimately surrendering last month.

Fighters with the Azov Regiment and Ukrainian marines spent weeks in the Azovstal steel plant as it was attacked by Russia.
Fighters with the Azov Regiment and Ukrainian marines spent weeks in the Azovstal steel plant as it was attacked by Russia.
REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

The prolonged defense frustrated Russia’s ability to reinforce its ongoing operations in the eastern Donbas region with troops and supplies from Russian-occupied Crimea.

Ukraine’s Ministry for Reintegration of Occupied Territories announced Saturday that 320 bodies had been exchanged last week on the front line in the Zaporizhzhia oblast.

With Post wires

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