Russian-backed separatist forces appear poised to reject a proposal to receive captured Russian soldiers in exchange for releasing Ukrainian soldiers trapped at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.
Russian forces are continuing their assault despite Ukraine working on a deal to extract dozens of injured soldiers from the besieged plant in exchange for Russian prisoners of war, Denys Pushylin, leader of a breakaway state run by pro-Russian separatists, told Donbas News.
UKRAINE OFFERS TO EXCHANGE RUSSIAN POWS FOR TROOPS TRAPPED INSIDE STEEL PLANT
Pushilin, who heads up the Donetsk People’s Republic, instead called on Ukrainian soldiers to "lay down their arms and head to a tribunal."
Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials said that evacuation negotiations for the soldiers were still underway.
"To be clear: we are currently only negotiating 38 heavily wounded (lying down) fighters. Working step by step. Exchange 38 heavy, then move on. There are no talks about exchanging 500 or 600 people," Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a Facebook post Thursday.
Vereshchuk previously said that Ukrainian forces did not want to surrender as roughly 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers are holed up in the steel plant, recent estimates from Russia suggest.
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Ukrainian officials reported that they had successfully evacuated all women, children, and seniors trapped underneath the facility. Nearly 100 other civilians remain inside, Petro Andryushchenko, a Mariupol mayoral advisor, said Wednesday.