Soldiers Surrender at Azovstal
Over the past week about half of the soldiers at the Azovstal steel plant have surrendered. Most of the soldiers belong to the Azov battalion whom Russia has demonized as Nazis. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hinted at a prisoner exchange, but Russia has not made similar overtures. Instead, the Russian Supreme Court will decide whether they put them on trial as a terrorists. Such a move could lead to the deprivation of rights as they become legally classified as criminals rather than prisoners of war.
President Zelensky gave many the impression of an agreement with Russia before soldiers from the Azovstal steel plant began to surrender. Moreover, it’s unlikely these soldiers would surrender without direction from their commanders. Nonetheless, it’s not clear whether Russia agreed to any such exchange. They have said nothing publicly. At the same time, Russia has repeatedly made overtures in bad faith throughout the war. The creation of humanitarian corridors has been painstakingly slow. Many NGOs complained about Russian hesitations and delays to an agreement to evacuate civilians from the steel plant. So, the impression I get from Russia’s treatment of the Azov battalion is yet another negotiation in bad faith.
Vladimir Putin has broken many promises and commitments towards Ukraine that it’s hard to keep track. He no longer comes across as a head of state, but some fictional villain from a movie. Putin resembles Darth Vader or better yet Emperor Palpatine. He leads an evil empire with a large army and powerful weapons. Moreover, it’s inconceivable to negotiate with someone so evil. Any negotiation is an opportunity for manipulation and deceit. I watch the soldiers surrender and scream out, “Don’t do it!” But this is not a movie. People are actually starving, wounded, and dying. This is real and so are the consequences.