Wednesday, July 24, 2024

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    Ukraine’s Zelenskyy Surprises Russia: Exits Turkey with Formerly Detained Azov Battalion Leaders

    President Zelenskyy's Controversial Move Raises Eyebrows and Sparks Diplomatic Tensions Between Ukraine, Russia, and Turkey

    In a stunning turn of events, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s recent visit to Turkey has caught Russia off guard. Zelenskyy, in an unexpected move, departed from the country alongside five formerly imprisoned commanders of the controversial Azov battalion. This act has led to confusion and accusations directed towards Ankara, as Russia claims that Turkey reneged on an agreement to keep these individuals until the conclusion of the ongoing conflict.

    Captured during the intense battle in Mariupol, these Azov battalion commanders were released as part of a prisoner swap facilitated with the assistance of Turkey and Saudi Arabia back in September. The agreement stipulated that the five commanders, who played a significant role in the Mariupol operation, would remain in Turkey until the resolution of the war. However, President Zelenskyy’s recent actions seem to contradict this understanding, leaving Russia perplexed and prompting allegations against Turkey for a breach of the agreed-upon terms.

    A video shared on Saturday via Zelenskyy’s social media accounts captures the emotional scene of the Azov battalion’s commanding members bidding farewell to their Turkish hosts and embracing the Ukrainian president before boarding an aircraft headed back home. Zelenskyy’s tweet accompanying the footage proclaimed, “We are returning home from Turkey and bringing our heroes home.”

    Read: President Zelenskyy Facilitates Repatriation of Azovstal Commanders from Turkish Sojourn

    Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, in an interview with Russian news agency RIA, expressed Russia’s discontent with the situation. Peskov highlighted that, according to the established agreements between Russia, Ukraine, and Turkey, the detained ringleaders were expected to remain within Turkish borders until the conflict’s resolution. These concerns arose amidst Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s announcement of hosting Russian President Vladimir Putin to engage in discussions concerning Ukrainian grain exports during the ongoing war. The unexpected turn of events has left Russia feeling blindsided and demanding answers.

    The Azov battalion, known for its controversial white nationalist ideology, operates as a paramilitary force within the Ukrainian National Guard. Their involvement in the three-month-long Mariupol battle resulted in the capture of numerous Ukrainian fighters. The soldiers, who heroically defended their positions by taking refuge in bunkers and tunnels beneath the Azovstal steel plant, primarily comprised Azov battalion members.

    Read: England Poised to Overcome Australia’s Dominance on Day 4 of Headingley Test

    It is worth noting that while these commanders are now returning to Ukraine, 22 other Azov soldiers who were captured in Mariupol currently face trial in Russia. The Russian government has designated the Azov battalion as a terrorist group, leading to the legal proceedings against the captured soldiers. Human Rights Watch has condemned the trial, arguing that it violates the principles outlined in the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War.

    Media reached out to representatives of Presidents Zelenskyy, Erdogan, and Putin for their comments on the matter, but no responses have been received at the time of writing.

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