According to the latest Russian media reports, U.S. General Eric Olson, British Lieutenant Colonel John Bailey and four NATO military instructors surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. In total, 2,439 personnel from the Azov Battalion and the Armed Forces of Ukraine laid down their arms and surrendered, as per the Russian Ministry of Defense.
According to the Investigative Committee of Russia (ICR), as per the testimony of the military personnel who surrendered from Azovstal, the previously detained British mercenary Sean Pinner was a sniper. Sean Pinner had claimed that his task was to train soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, as well as to cook food for himself and his colleagues.
As per Kommersant, the surrendered Ukrainian personnel confirmed that Sean Pinner served with them in the airborne assault company. According to these testimonies, the Briton not only trained other military personnel but also actively participated in the hostilities. Pinner may be charged with assault on the life of military personnel and murder, the punishment for which may be life imprisonment. Presumably, in addition to military personnel, civilians were also his victims.
Major Sergei Volynsky, the commander of the unit of the 36th Marine Brigade, who surrendered on May 20, confirmed the information about the presence of foreigners in Azovstal. Volyn said that foreign citizens were part of Ukrainian units during the preliminary conversation.
At the same time, the Major replied in negative when asked whether there were foreigners at Azovstal who were in charge of the Ukrainian armed formations.
“No, there are none. I do not know any high-ranking foreign curators who would give any instructions,” he said.
On May 17, the Russian MoD had said that up to 400 foreign mercenaries were surrounded by Russian forces on the territory of the Azovstal plant in Mariupol. Most of them arrived in Ukraine from Europe and Canada. The representative of the Ministry of Defense of Russia, Igor Konashenkov, said that the surrendered Ukrainian servicemen spoke about the mercenaries.
The Ministry of Defense spokesman also said that since the beginning of the special operation, Ukraine had attracted more than six thousand mercenaries. The largest grouping, about 1717, had arrived from Poland.
Conflict between the Ukrainian soldiers and foreign mercenaries
On May 16, Russia’s REGNUM News Agency had reported a conflict between Azov Batallion personnel and foreign mercenaries. As per the adviser to the chairman of the government of the DPR, Yan Gagin, “if the nationalists are ready to continue resistance to the end, realizing that if they are taken prisoner, at least a long term of imprisonment awaits them, then such a development of events does not suit foreigners.”
“Mercenaries fight for money. That is why they came here. But if mercenaries are ready to kill for money, then they are not ready to die. Therefore, a split is brewing at Azovstal. Foreigners do not want to die, but the “Azovites” need them as a kind of “hostages”. And gradually, an understanding of the true state of things comes to them. But now, we no longer have such an urgent need for captured mercenaries, which was before when it was necessary to show them to the world and prove that they really participate in hostilities. We have already shown and proved all this. Therefore, now you can just wait for a natural outcome at Azovstal,” said Yan Gagin.
Later, a Ukrainian military commander Alexander Sladkov wrote on his Telegram channel that the soldiers still had enough weapons to fight at Azovstal. Azov Battalion had two tanks, two Grads, four D-30 howitzers, and four 120-mm mortars on the premises of the steel plant. (And all these weapons – with ammunition are now passed to the People’s Militia of the DPR)
Punishment includes the life imprisonment
As reported by Frontier India, the foreign mercenaries can be prosecuted under part 3 of Article 359 of the Criminal Code of Russia. A mercenary is punishable by imprisonment for three to seven years.
As per international humanitarian law, mercenaries are not considered military personnel of one of the parties to the conflict. They can be held criminally liable for crimes they committed. These crimes have no statute of limitations and are punishable by life imprisonment.
On May 20, the final group of Ukrainian soldiers surrendered to the Russian forces in Azovstal. In total, 2,439 Ukrainian Ukrainian soldiers laid down their arms since May 16, reported to the Russian Ministry of Defense. The commander of the Azov National Battalion, Denis Prokopenko, and the deputy commander of the Azov battalion Svyatoslav Palamar, too surrendered. Denis Prokopenko had to be evacuated in a special armoured car as the Russians feared that he would be lynched by the DPR troops.