The senior officers of the former Mariupol garrison, including the commander Ukraine’s Azov Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Denys Prokopenko, are permitted to return to the front to fight Russian invasion forces.
This was confirmed by the commander of the National Guard, Colonel Oleksandr Pivnenko, in an interview with NV’s sister publication Ukrayinska Pravda. The Azov Regiment is a unit of Ukraine’s National Guard.
"Denys … defended Mariupol … They are preparing (for battle) and will perform tasks, like everyone else," Pivnenko said.
Pivnenko added that there was no ban on the Azov commanders returning to the front, and that they could be back in battle within a month.
"It depends on the situation at the front. Maybe within a month. We'll see, let's see, time will tell," he said.
The Mariupol garrison commanders were captured by the Russians during their seizure of the port city of Mariupol in May 2022. The five commanders were held captive by the Russians, and then held in Turkey under a prisoner exchange deal brokered by Ankara. Later, they werereleased and travelled back to Ukraine with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy after the Ukrainian head of state visited Turkey on July 8.
Russia then accused Ukraine and Turkey of violating the terms of the prisoner exchange deal.
The five Mariupol garrison commanders who returned were:
- the commander of the Azov Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Denis Prokopenko, with the call sign Redis;
- the deputy commander of Azov Regiment, Captain Sviatoslav Palamar, with the call sign Kalyna;
- the acting commander of the 36th Marine Brigade, Captain 3rd Rank Serhiy Volynskyi, with the call sign Volyn;
- senior soldier of the 72nd Separate Mechanized Brigade named after the Black Zaporozhets, Oleh Khomenko;
- the commander of the 12th Brigade of the Ukrainian National Guard, Colonel Denis Shlega.
The Mariupol garrison commanders were held in Turkey "under the personal protection of President (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan" after a large-scale prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia took place in September 2022. They spent more than nine months in the country after being released from Russian captivity.
In total, on Sept. 22, 2022, Ukraine returned 215 defenders from Russian captivity. The five commanders of the Mariupol garrison were exchanged for 55 Russian soldiers, and in exchange for the rest, Ukraine sent Viktor Medvedchuk, a People's Deputy and Putin's best man, who was suspected of treason, to Russia.
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