Ukrainian troops who surrendered to Russian forces at the Azovstal steel plant in the town of Mariupol could face the death penalty, pro-Moscow separatist officials said on Monday.
“The court will rule on them,” the RIA Novosti news agency quoted Yuri Sirovatko, justice minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic of eastern Ukraine, as saying.
“We have the highest penalty in the DNR for this type of crime – the death penalty.
“All the prisoners of war are on DNR territory,” he said, adding that about 2,300 of them were from Azovstal.
Hundreds of Ukrainian guards at the strategic port of Mariupol on the southeastern coast of the Azov Sea surrendered this month after being trapped in an underground tunnel of the Azovstal steelwork for weeks.
Kyiv has said it wants to exchange troops for prisoners, while Moscow has indicated it will face trial first.
Among the Ukrainian fighters who surrendered were members of the Azov Regiment, a former paramilitary unit that has integrated into the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Russia describes the unit, which previously had ties to far-right groups, as a neo-Nazi organization.
In a phone call with Vladimir Putin on Saturday, the leaders of France and Germany called on the Russian president to release Ukrainian fighters from Azovstal.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)