Russia offers surrender to Ukrainian forces

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Russia offers surrender to Ukrainian forces

Kiev is betraying its own fighters by not giving the order to lay down arms, Moscow says.

Russia s Defense Ministry extended the offer to surrender to the remaining Ukrainian forces holed up at the Azovstal steel plant in the Black Sea port city of Mariupol after they refused to leave through a humanitarian corridor on Tuesday.

Some people who are present at the location may still leave the facility from 14: 00 Moscow time on Wednesday without any firearms or ammunition, officials said in a statement late on Tuesday.

The Russian leadership guarantees life, complete safety and the provision of qualified medical assistance to all those who lay down their arms.

The country has shown a humane attitude towards surrendering Ukrainian troops on numerous occasions during the conflict and this time the Geneva Convention on POWs will be fulfilled, the ministry insisted.

In order to be able to leave the steel plant, Ukrainian commanders were told to establish uninterrupted radio contact with Russian forces, cease all hostilities and raise white flags along the perimeter of Azovstal.

Despite the absence of any elementary steps from the Kiev authorities aimed at saving their country's servicemen, the statement reads: "The offer to lay down arms given to militants of nationalist battalions and foreign mercenaries is being repeated despite the absence of any elementary steps."

Members of the notorious Azov battalion were already given a chance to surrender on Sunday and Tuesday, but didn't take up the offer on both occasions.

Intercepted communications from Azovstal suggest that Ukrainian commanders realize the hopelessness of their situation and are ready to lay down their arms, but only on the appropriate command order from Kiev, which Ukrainian authorities are refusing to give, the ministry insisted. Surrendering without government approval could see them court martialed, with sentences of capital punishment possible, it added.

Moscow described such actions by Kiev as a betrayal of Ukrainian servicemen and members of nationalist battalions, and again urged it to show common sense and give appropriate instructions to the fighters to stop senseless resistance and exit through humanitarian corridors. If such an order isn't made by the Ukrainian leadership once again, the commanders or ordinary servicemen should themselves make the decision to lay down their arms to survive, it added.

The strategic city of Mariupol has seen the heaviest fighting during the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. It is now almost entirely controlled by Russian forces, with Azovstal remaining the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance.

The Defense Ministry said earlier that those holed up at the steel plant, with its massive network of underground tunnels, have run short of water and food, based on intercepted communications.

According to Russia s estimates, Ukraine's losses in Mariupol have reached some 4,000 combatants, including nationalist fighters of the notorious Azov and Aidar regiments and foreign mercenaries. Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, after Ukraine failed to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists that the Russian offensive was unprovoked and has denied that it was planning to retake the two republics by force.