The Russian parliament will vote on a law to ban any prisoner exchange with the Nazis of the Azov Battalion. Military personnel who are part of the regular army and have not committed war crimes are protected by the Geneva Convention. Neo-Nazis do not fall into that category and international humanitarian law does not cover war criminals.
The Duma is laying the groundwork for trials of Nazi war criminals captured in Mariupol. To this end, it has established a difference in principle between the regular armed forces, who are prisoners of war, covered by international norms and humanitarian law, and the Nazi paramilitary gangs, who are to be tried for crimes committed since 2014.
In addition to the 300 Ukrainian soldiers who left the Azovstal steelworks, the Russian Ministry of Defence claims that 700 more have surrendered, including 29 wounded. In total, the Ministry estimates that some 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers may have been hiding in Azovstal.
Several members of the Duma have been outspoken against Ukrainian Nazis being included in prisoner exchanges between the two sides. Deputy Oleg Morozov, Chairman of the Duma Control Committee, said they will recommend against exchanging Nazis from the Azov Battalion. “We will treat the wounded, we will respect the Convention on prisoners and treat them humanely. But we will not let anyone go. Everyone will get what they deserve, according to the court. The crimes of the Nazis will not be whitewashed, nor will their body tattoos”.
That is also the position of Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin: “Nazi criminals must not be exchanged. Today, the plenary committees of the State Duma have been charged with resolving the issue of banning the exchange of Nazi criminals. Our country treats humanely those who have surrendered or have been captured. But as far as the Nazis are concerned, our position must not change: they are war criminals and we must do everything possible to bring them to justice”.
Deputy Andrei Kartalopov, Chairman of the Duma Defence Committee, said that a draft resolution would be tabled in the Duma. Volodin asked MP Wasserman to prepare it, so that it could be voted on, after the latter claimed that the exchange of a single Nazi from the Azov Battalion would be considered by the West as one of its victories.
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