The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Thursday said one of its teams has registered hundreds of Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) this week from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.
The ICRC, the international body that seeks to aid victims of war and ensure the observance of humanitarian law by all parties in a conflict, in a statement, said it started on Tuesday to register combatants leaving the Azovstal steel plant, including the wounded.
The registration was done at the Russian and Ukrainian request after the Russian forces attacked Ukraine's southern port Mariupol when the war started on Feb. 24.
Mariupol is a critical location for Ukraine's economy since it is home to the largest port in the Sea of Azov for exports such as steel, iron, and agricultural products and imports.
The seized city lies between Crimea, the region illegally annexed by Moscow in 2014, and Donbas, an area where Ukraine has been fighting secessionist elements for years.
But while Russia seized control of the city that once had a population of around 450,000, with extensive industrial facilities, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on May 6 that Mariupol was already completely destroyed and there was nothing in reality for Russia to take.
The Red Cross said the POW registration was still ongoing, though it did not cite the number of POWs. However, Russia claimed 959 Ukrainians had surrendered.
“The ICRC is not transporting POWs to the places where they are held,” said the statement from Geneva.
Russia's Defense Ministry said on Monday it had reached an agreement with besieged Ukrainian servicemen on the evacuation of the wounded from the steel plant.
The registration process that the ICRC facilitated involves the individual filling out a form with personal details like name, date of birth, and closest relative.
This information allows the ICRC to track those captured and help them keep in touch with their families.
“In accordance with the mandate given to the ICRC by states under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the ICRC must have immediate access to all POWs in all places where they are held,” said the Red Cross.
“The ICRC must be allowed to interview prisoners of war without witnesses, and the duration and frequency of these visits should not be unduly restricted.”
Whenever circumstances permit, each party to the conflict must take all possible measures to search for and collect the dead, the statement added.
The ICRC said it maintains "a confidential dialogue with the parties to the conflict" on their obligations under international humanitarian law./aa