US reopens Kyiv embassy months after fleeing west before invasion

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According to the separatist leader, hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers are still in the steel plant

More than 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers, including senior commanders, remain inside the beleaguered Azovstal steelworks in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, a pro-Russian separatist leader said.

The Russian Defense Ministry said 959 Ukrainian soldiers have visited the factory since Monday, which has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance to Russian forces.

Speaking to reporters in Mariupol, the leader of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin, said there had been around 2,000 fighters in the sprawling industrial complex and that “just over half” were stayed inside.

“The commanders and high-ranking fighters of the (regiment) Azov have not yet come out,” he told reporters, including AFP, during a press tour organized by the Russian army.

This photo released on May 10, 2022 by the Azov Regiment shows two wounded Ukrainian servicemen inside the Azovstal steel plant in eastern Mariupol, Ukraine, amid the Russian invasion. (Dmytro ‘Orest’ Kozatskyi / Azov Special Forces Regiment of the Ukrainian National Guard Press Office / AFP)

The Azov regiment, a former paramilitary unit created in 2014, has joined the Ukrainian armed forces. Russia describes the unit, which has previous ties to far-right groups, as a neo-Nazi organization.

The Russian Defense Ministry said 80 wounded were among those who had surrendered since Monday and some were being treated at a hospital in the city of Novoazovsk, in Russian-held territory.

Pushilin said some of the injured were also being treated in the city of Donetsk, and the rest of those released from the factory were being held in custody in a penal colony.

kyiv hopes to swap the Ukrainian fighters, but Russia has yet to confirm whether they will be part of a prisoner swap.

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