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More than 20 Ukrainian soldiers taken as prisoners of war went on trial in a southern Russian court on June 15, the Associated Press reported.
According to the AP, the soldiers are members of the Azov Regiment, an elite unit of Ukraine's National Guard. Azov Regiment soldiers were some of the last Ukrainian forces to remain in the besieged port city of Mariupol before surrendering to Russia in May 2022 at the Azovstal steel plant.
Two of the 24 people facing charges have been swapped for Russian prisoners of war as part of a prisoner exchange, the AP reported. Of the remaining 22 defendants on trial, eight are women, who reportedly worked as cooks for the Azov Regiment.
Russia has designated the Azov Regiment as a terrorist group, which means the soldiers could face charges of involvement in a terrorist organization and for taking part in what the Russian government claims are actions to overthrow Russian-backed proxies in Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine.
If convicted, the soldiers could face 15 years to life in prison, the AP reported.
Russian propaganda has routinely looked to demonize the Azov Regiment over its alleged association with far-right groups.
But in January, U.S. tech giant Meta, Facebook, Instagram, and What'sApps' parent companies snubbed Russia by removing the regiment's "dangerous organization" label, allowing Azov Regiment soldiers to have accounts on Meta's social media platforms and for content posted by other users about the Azov Regiment to stay up online.