Leader of Ukraine’s far-right Azov brigade alive in Russian captivity — wife

The top military commander who fought until last week to keep Ukrainian control of the southern port city of Mariupol is alive in Russian-controlled territory, his wife says after holding a brief telephone conversation.

Kateryna Prokopenko, who is married to Azov Regiment leader Denys Prokopenko, says her husband asked her how she was, but that the line broke off before he could say anything about himself.

She says the phone call was possible under an agreement between the governments of Ukraine and Russia and thanks to the mediation of the Red Cross, which has been visiting some of the Ukrainian fighters who surrendered.

Kateryna Prokopenko, wife of Denis Prokopenko, the commander of the Azov regiment, poses prior to taking part in the television talk show ‘Porta a Porta’ on the Rai Uno channel, on April 28, 2022, in Rome. (Tiziana Fabi/AFP)

Earlier this month, Russia announced its takeover of Mariupol with the surrender of the fighters holed up at the massive Azovstal steel mill.

Prokopenko, who spoke to The Associated Press in Kyiv together with another wife of a soldier, Yuliia Fedosiuk, said that the Ukraine and Russia agreement guarantees proper burial of dead soldiers and certain conditions for the prisoners of war, including allowing them to hold telephone calls with family members a few times per week.

This photo, taken from a video released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Wednesday, May 18, 2022, shows Ukrainian servicemen as they leave the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

The two women said several families had received calls in the past two days. They said they could not reveal more details of the agreement but they were hopeful that the soldiers will not be tortured and that they eventually will “come back home.”

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