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Azovstal defenders are back: Zelenskyy brings home Azovstal commanders from Turkey

Azovstal defenders are back: Zelenskyy brings home Azovstal commanders from Turkey Azovstal commanders returned home (
Author: Maria Kholina

All the commanders of the Azovstal defense have returned to Ukraine after being released from Russian captivity in September 2022. Until today, they had been staying on the territory of Turkey, reports an RBC-Ukraine correspondent.

The commander of "Azov" Denys Prokopenko "Redis," his deputy Sviatoslav Palamar "Kalyna," the acting commander of the 36th Separate Marine Infantry Brigade Serhiy Volynsky "Volyna," senior officer of "Azov" Oleh Khomenko, and the commander of the 12th National Guard Brigade Denis Shleha have returned to Ukraine.

"Today, on the 500th day of the war, we have brought home, to Ukraine, five of our heroes, Heroes of Ukraine, the commanders of the defense of Mariupol and 'Azovstal.' They fought for Ukraine, they fough absolutely heroically. They went through Russian captivity, then spent over 300 days in Turkey. It's time for them to be home," said President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Lviv.

The Ukrainian president also thanked the leader of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for his assistance in the release of our commanders.

Photo: Ukrainian commanders of "Azovstal" are back home (RBC-Ukraine, Serhiy Pyshkin)

Meanwhile, during a conversation with journalists, Denys Prokopenko hinted that he plans to go back to war.

"I firmly believe that the army is a team effort. And starting today, we will continue the fight together with you. We will definitely have our say in battle," said "Redis."

Captivity after the "Azovstal" defense

Russian forces surrounded Mariupol on March 2, 2022, gradually tightening the noose. Therefore, by mid-April, the defense forces had to relocate to the territory of the "Azovstal" metallurgical plant. There, Ukrainian defenders held their ground until mid-May, enduring constant bombings and artillery strikes.

Even during the battles for "Azovstal," the commanders appealed to international partners to facilitate the "extraction" procedure to save the lives of both military and civilians who were also in the plant's bunkers.

In mid-May, the commanders received orders to leave "Azovstal" to save the lives of Ukrainian defenders. The military and civilians exited in groups over a span of five days.

On September 22, 2022, Ukraine repatriated 215 military personnel from Russian captivity, including 108 fighters from "Azov." It was then, through the mediation of Turkey, that Prokopenko, Volynsky, Palamar, Khomenko, and Shleha were released from captivity.

Their release from captivity stipulated that they would stay in Turkey until the end of the war in Ukraine to avoid their return to the conflict zone.

Read more about the defense of Mariupol in the material by RBC-Ukraine, "Resilience unyielding: Mariupol's defenders stand firm one year after Azovstal."