More than 900 defenders of Mariupol remain in Russian captivity, Denys Prokopenko, commander of the Azov Regiment, told Ukrainian media on Feb. 1. The announcement comes after 207 Ukrainian POWs were returned home from Russian captivity on Jan. 31.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Jan. 31 that almost half of the returned POWs were Mariupol defenders. Propenko then reported that two Azov fighters were released, but neither of them were Mariupol defenders.
The Azov fighters became a symbol of Ukraine's resistance through their tenacious defense of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol in the first three months of the all-out war. Russian forces eventually took Mariupol by May 2022, capturing the remaining defenders.
Prokopenko, his deputy Svyatoslav Palamar, and marine commander Serhiy Volynsky were released from Russian captivity in a massive prisoner exchange back in September 2022.
Russian propaganda has routinely looked to demonize the Azov Regiment over its alleged association with far-right groups.
Yesterday's group of returned POWs consisted of 180 privates and sergeants, as well as 27 officers from the Armed Forces, National Guard, Border Guard, and National Police.
Earlier in January, 230 Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) were brought back home in the largest prisoner exchange to date since February 2022.
According to Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets, the exchange was the 50th of its kind and in total, 3,035 Ukrainians have been returned from captivity.