Did UN Secretary-General Guterres Commit A War Crime At Azovstal?

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Yves here. I’m at a loss to understand why the West continues to flog the dead horse of the Azovstal factory. The soldiers in there are trapped and will be starved out. The media push to pretend they are putting up a fight is absurd, since their leader/spokesman has been begging to be rescued, and this week, to barter civilian captives for food.

The press is bizarrely ignoring the fact that if there are civilians in there (and since some did emerge, it appears yes, but fewer in number that the Ukrainians pretended) who aren’t coming out even though they are hungry, it sure suggests that they are being detained.

Now admittedly, there is a less pernicious reason for the civilians to stay hunkered down in the Azovstal factory: they might have been persuaded that they’d be sent off to a gulag or worse. So the UN could play a role in persuading them that nothing bad would happen if they left. But as you’ll see from Helmer’s post, there’s more to this story…

By John Helmer who has been the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to have directed his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. Originally published at Dances with Bears

Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, is refusing this week to answer questions on the role he played in the recent attempt by US, British, Canadian and other foreign combatants to escape the bunkers under the Azovstal plant, using the human shield of civilians trying to evacuate.

In Guterres’s meeting with President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on April 26 (lead image), Putin warned Guterres he had been “misled” in his efforts. “The simplest thing”, Putin told Guterres in the recorded part of their meeting, “for military personnel or members of the nationalist battalions is to release the civilians. It is a crime to keep civilians, if there are any there, as human shields.”

This war crime has been recognized since 1977 by the UN in Protocol 1 of the Geneva Convention.  In US law for US soldiers and state officials, planning to employ or actually using human shields is a war crime to be prosecuted under 10 US Code Section 950t.

Instead, Guterres ignored the Kremlin warning and the war crime law, and authorized UN officials, together with Red Cross officials,  to conceal what Guterres himself knew of the foreign military group trying to escape. Overnight from New York, Guterres has refused to say what he knew of the military escape operation, and what he had done to distinguish, or conceal the differences between the civilians and combatants in the evacuation plan over the weekend of April 30-May 1.May.

Russian officials have remained publicly polite towards Guterres, despite what Moscow regards as his taking sides with the US, the NATO alliance, and the Kiev government from the beginning of the military operation on February 24. “We are dealing”, the Secretary-General declared on April 5, “with the full-fledged invasion, on several fronts, of one Member State of the United Nations, Ukraine, by another, the Russian Federation — a permanent member of the Security Council — in violation of the United Nations Charter, and with several aims, including redrawing the internationally recognized borders between the two countries.”*

Putin told Guterres his interpretation of the military operation and of the UN Charter was wrong and biased.

Source: http://en.kremlin.ru/

“I know,” Putin said as the cameras recorded, “about your concern over Russia’s military operation in Donbass, in Ukraine. I think this will be the focus of our conversation today. I would just like to note in this context that the entire problem emerged after a coup d’état staged in Ukraine in 2014. This is an obvious fact. You can call it whatever name you like and have whatever bias in favour of those who did it, but this was really an anti-constitutional coup.”

Putin was explicit that he rejected Guterres’s claim that the Russian military operation violated the Charter: “Unfortunately, our colleagues in the West preferred to ignore all this. After we recognised the independence of these states [Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics], they asked us to render them military aid because they were subjected to military actions, an armed aggression. In accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter, Chapter VII, we were forced to do this by launching a special military operation.”

“It is a fact that many Western countries recognised Kosovo as an independent state.* We did the same with the Donbass republics. After that, they asked us to provide them with military assistance to deal with the state that launched military operations against them. We had the right to do so in full compliance with Chapter VII, Article 51 of the UN Charter. Just a second, we will talk about this in a minute. But first I would like to address the second part of your question, Mariupol. The situation is difficult and possibly even tragic there. But in fact, it is very simple.”

To Guterres,  Putin also made a clear distinction between civilians and combatants using the civilians as hostages or human shields. Putin identified this as a war crime. “The Azovstal plant has been fully isolated. I have issued instructions, an order to stop the assault. There is no direct fighting there now. Yes, the Ukrainian authorities say that there are civilians at the plant. In this case, the Ukrainian military must release them, or otherwise they will be doing what terrorists in many countries have done, what ISIS did in Syria when they used civilians as human shields. The simplest thing they can do is release these people; it is as simple as that. You say that Russia’s humanitarian corridors are ineffective. Mr Secretary-General, you have been misled: these corridors are effective. Over 100,000 people, 130,000–140,000, if I remember correctly, have left Mariupol with our assistance, and they are free to go where they want, to Russia or Ukraine. They can go anywhere they want; we are not detaining them, but we are providing assistance and support to them.”

“The civilians in Azovstal, if there are any, can do this as well. They can come out, just like that. This is an example of a civilised attitude to people, an obvious example. And anyone can see this; you only need to talk with the people who have left the city. The simplest thing for military personnel or members of the nationalist battalions is to release the civilians. It is a crime to keep civilians, if there are any there, as human shields.”

In his many public statements before the Kremlin meeting, and in his remarks at the Russian Foreign Ministry the same day,  , Guterres has not mentioned war crimes except to repeat the US and Ukrainian allegations about the Russian side. “The war has led to senseless loss of life, massive devastation in urban centres and the destruction of civilian infrastructure,” he said on April 5. “I will never forget the horrifying images of civilians killed in Bucha.  I immediately called for an independent investigation to guarantee effective accountability. I am also deeply shocked by the personal testimony of rapes and sexual violence that are now emerging.  The High Commissioner for Human Rights has spoken of possible war crimes, grave breaches of international humanitarian law and serious violations of international human rights law.  The war has displaced more than 10 million people in just one month — the fastest forced population movement since the Second World War.”

Two weeks later, on April 19, Guterres announced his plan for the evacuation of the Azovstal bunkers, mentioning only “civilians”. “The intense concentration of forces and firepower makes this battle inevitably more violent, bloody and destructive. The onslaught and terrible toll on civilians we have seen so far could pale in comparison to the horror that lies ahead.  This cannot be allowed to happen….The humanitarian pause would provide the necessary conditions to meet two crucial imperatives.  First, safe passage of all civilians willing to leave the areas of current and expected confrontation, in coordination with the International Committee of the Red Cross.  Second, beyond humanitarian operations already taking place, a pause will allow for the safe delivery of life-saving humanitarian aid to people in the hardest-hit areas such as Mariupol, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk. The United Nations is ready to send humanitarian aid convoys during this period to these locations.  We are submitting detailed plans to the parties.  Humanitarian needs are dire.  People do not have food, water, supplies to treat the sick or wounded, or simply to live day to day.”

When Guterres and Putin met the following week, on April 26, the Russians already suspected Guterres of planning his civilian evacuation scene to conceal the escape of the foreign officers from their Azovstal bunker. He was warned privately. Putin’s remarks were the public warning. Guterres stuck to his position in the only remark the Russian media caught him as saying at the meeting: “We are deeply concerned about what is happening now. We believe that there has been an invasion of the territory of Ukraine.”

The Defense Ministry spokesman, Major-General Igor Konashenkov (right), had announced on April 17  that “up to four hundred foreign mercenaries were trapped [at Azovstal]… Most of them are citizens of European countries, as well as Canada. We have already reported earlier that radio conversations between militants in Mariupol are conducted in six foreign languages”. Konashenkov also announced that in addition to these foreigners there were up to 2,100 Ukrainian troops in Azovstal.

The Russian intelligence at the time was that far fewer civilians had been taken hostage or had voluntarily sought shelter in the Azovstal bunkers. It would turn out, two weeks later, that the number of civilians was 101. They were outnumbered by the foreign and Ukrainian combatants twenty-five to one.

Guterres knew this before he arrived in Moscow. There on April 26, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov revealed that Guterres had been briefed for several weeks by his own officials on the human shield and hostage-taking tactics of the Ukrainian forces during the battle for Mariupol, and inside the Azovstal bunker. “After the UN Secretary-General contacted our Defence Ministry on March 4, 2022,” Lavrov said in Guterres’s presence, “we established the Joint Coordination Headquarters for Humanitarian Response at the National Defence Control Centre of the Russian Federation. UN representatives are coordinating practical matters to organise safe humanitarian deliveries.”

Yesterday, May 5 New York time, Guterres was asked three questions to clarify what he had known about the combatants at Azovstal;  when he had known it;  and how he proposed to the  Russians he met — as well as to the Ukrainians – to distinguish between the civilians and the combatants in the evacuation.


Guterres has refused to answer. Instead, his spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said: “all I can tell you is that the United Nations and the international committee of the Red Cross are focused on evacuating civilians from Mariupol , including the steel plant. This is done in coordination with Ukrainian authorities and the Russian authorities on the ground. I have no further comment.”

Dujarric (right) is a veteran reporter for the US television network ABC; before that he was a US foreign service trainee in Washington and a member of the Paris branch of the Rothschild banking family. In follow-up email he was asked to “correct the error of fact in your comment. The UN and Red Cross evacuation of ‘civilians’ did not ‘focus’ on the civilians who opted not to go to the Kiev side at Zaporozhye; the ICRC statement makes explicit that ‘other people…went elsewhere’. Dujarric refused to answer.

On May 3 a press release by the Red Cross headquarters in Geneva announced    that “the five-day safe passage operation” at Azovstal, which it had run with the UN, had evacuated “several dozen civilians”. Why the precise number, which was known, was left so vague in the announcement is unclear. Also left unclear by the Red Cross was why it had conducted the evacuation exclusively for those civilians from the bunker who chose to go to the Kiev government side’s reception centre at Zaporozhye. Referring to those who opted to remain in the Donetsk Republic or seek refuge in Russia, the Red Cross statement said only “other people from the plant went elsewhere.”

On the difference between these two groups of civilians, the UN official at the scene explained what happened to a Russian reporter. “The UN Humanitarian coordinator in Ukraine, Osnat Lubrani, said that she had not seen any attempts to take people forcibly evacuated from Azovstal to Russia. ‘I didn’t have the feeling that there were any attempts to send people to Russia. This has not happened, as far as I know,’ Lubrani said. Lubrani also pointed out that people who did not want to go to the territory controlled by Ukraine made this choice of their own free will, there were about 30 of them.”

Source: Osnat Lubrani in front of the Azovstal bus convoy assembled by the UN on April 30-May 1. See Osnati’s Twitter postings.

Lubrani’s official statement, cleared by UN headquarters in New York and by the Ukrainians in Kiev, confirmed  there had been 101 evacuees, and that 32 of them had opted for the Donetsk or Russian side. “The operation started on Friday 29 April,” Lubrani declared, “and was agreed with the parties to the conflict, following engagements by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres during his recent visits to Moscow and Kyiv.”  Note how the UN official ignored the large number of evacuees who opted against the Kiev side. She omitted altogether the discrepancy between the number of buses ordered and the number of civilian evacuees.

Also unclear is why the UN statement was precise on the number of evacuees while the Red Cross statement was vague.

Source: https://www.icrc.org/

On the same day, May 3, Guterres told Dujarric to issue a press release in which he claimed credit with the Red Cross for “successfully” evacuating “more than 100 civilians”. Again, Guterres evaded the issue of the civilians taken hostage by the Ukrainian forces and their foreign officers,  and used by them as hostages and shields.

Source: https://www.un.org/

In Moscow the Russian Ministry of Defense announced officially that 101 people had been evacuated in the April 30-May 1 operation. The Russian reporters at the site also interviewed some of these civilians. In its report, Tsargrad counted that “that more than 70 passenger buses had been sent by the UN and the Red Cross for civilians, who were hiding behind the militants who had settled on Azovstal. Quite a large number to rescue 100 hostages.”

The bus capacity at Azovstal which had been delivered by the UN and Red Cross was more than 2,100. This was several magnitudes larger than the estimated total of civilians in the bunkers; it was roughly equal to the count of both civilians and combatants in the bunkers.

Russians sources believe that, despite the explicit warnings Guterres received from Putin and Lavrov in Moscow the week before, the Secretary-General authorized the plan to assist in a break-out by the combatants using the civilian evacuees as their shield.

Source: https://tsargrad.tv/

[*] Putin’s civility contrasts with the Belgian, French, German, British, South African and US governments. When they objected to what they regarded as the bias of UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, they killed him by arranging to bomb his aircraft in 1961. Thirty-five years later, when US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright objected to UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, she said publicly “I will break his legs.”   

Left: the last photograph of Dag Hammarskjold before he boarded his fatal flight  on September 17, 1961. Read this account of the evidence of the plotting by several governments to detonate a bomb inside the aircraft in midair.    Right: Madeline Albright briefing President Clinton on US military support for Kosovo in March 31, 1999.

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  1. Appleseed

    Great article but the OMG moment for me was in the footnote. Am I the last one to learn of the plot to murder Dag Hammarskjold? The link led me to this documentary which I’ve called up from the local library though it’s available for streaming on Kanopy. No wonder Guterres, Annan, et. al. carefully follow scripts so they don’t wind up like Hammarskjold.

    1. Martin Oline

      Thank you for this as I have read many rumors but not much real information.

      1. Aristophon

        Thank goodness there’s at least one other person on the planet who is interested in the Olaf Palme case. I know they arrested a mentally ill person for the attack – but – how he came to be so conveniently in the right place at the right time still intrigues me. Particularly so as the upshot of the assassination has been a steady US and NATO “adjacency” to Swedish foreign policy.

        1. Congold

          I guess you are refering to Christer Petterson, and he was an drug addict. I don’t think he was mentally ill, and certainly could speak for himself.

          The main point, I don’t think he was present at the shooting. Oluf Palme’s wife picked him out of a line up, however that was staged. When given the informaition she got from the police 80 percentage of people picked Petterson from a picture of the lineup.

          Apparently a person looking like Petterson showed up right after the murder. Also, witnesses from shootings generally don’t remember much, and the police ussually gets as many descriptions of the shooter as there are witnesses.

      2. ks

        After 34 Years, Sweden Says It Knows the Killer of Olof Palme

        A prosecutor said there was “reasonable evidence” that the man who shot the Swedish prime minister was Stig Engstrom, a graphic designer, who took his own life in 2000.

        I found this more convincing than previous theories.

        1. digi_owl

          Convenient that he is now dead.

          And reading the supposed witness statements of the event makes me think of the explanation for why STASI agents used those massive fur coats.

          Because it would lead people to remember the coat, but not the person wearing it. Because the descriptions given likely could fit just about every businessman on the streets of Stockholm at the time.

          1. The Rev Kev

            Heard the same once about using a uniform as a disguise. Because how many people remember the face of the last person that they saw in a uniform?

            1. MichaelSF

              All you need are a clipboard, overalls with a name patch, and a white van. Instant invisibility.

        2. JohnA

          I watched the entire live TV press conference with the prosecutor. He did not convince me. His report is a big stinking cover-up with a convenient scape goat, a social misfit who had alcohol problems and killed himself several years ago. It was a professional hit, aided by either gross police incompetence or deliberate Swedish police/intelligence service assistance.

      1. JohnA

        And Anna Lindh, knifed to death in NK, a large upmarket department store in central Stockholm. The man found guilty, on compelling DNA evidence, claims, like Sirhan Sirhan in the Bobby Kennedy murder, to have no recollection the entire incident.

  2. AlanRoxdale

    Again, I struggle to understand why the US and Nato and the media are expending so much effort on the soldier in this Mariupol plant.
    We hear rumors and rumors of “top generals” and so forth being among the Azov troops in the bunkers, but I can’t understand why they would have any practical reason to be anywhere near the place. My assumption is that Nato support is more in terms of surveillance tech, operational support and intelligence, all of which can be done from Kiev or Kentucky if required.

    I suppose there could be foreign mercenaries, or private military companies, or specialized training personel on the front lines, but this is hardly a secret, and surely must be so across many places in Ukraine. Is this whole show to prevent embarrassment of such people being dragged before a Russian court, or questioned?

    What I really don’t understand is why the Mariupol plant has ended up being such a focus of intruige. I’ve got absolutely no context that others have seemed to come by.

    1. Harry

      Torture Labs? Human experiment? Senior intel personnel with access to sensitive materials?

      Whatever it is, Im starting to think we should grab some serious amounts of popcorn and prepare to be royally entertained.

      Whatever it is, we are definitely gonna be asked who do we believe, Nato propaganda or our own lyin’ eyes?

    2. José Freitas

      The rumours in Russia are that a secret biolab was hidden in the subterranean Azovstal grounds.

  3. Oh

    The UN seems to be completely under US control; each secretary general needs to be approved by the US to get that position. Therefore I’m not surprised at the actions of Guterres.

    1. Pym of Nantucket

      Wow, that’s an understatement; seriously if that was straightfaced satire that was good.

      The UN permanent security council composition is pretty much all you need to see to be convinced that it is a farce, but after that you could see its disposition towards Israel as an obvious start toward a massive compedium of evidence it is a US puppet for theatrics.

      It’s really hard to know where to start if you wanted to launch a tirade about what is wrong with it. The other side of the teeter totter amazingly holding the entire pantomime up is that it is all we have. So I’d say for now we need to keep it, in spite of knowing it’s a joke.

    1. CNu

      Reuters got caught twisting the account given by Avostal employee turned hostage. She, her husband and children went to Avostal Feb 24, knowing well of the fortifications but they did not know they would be trapped by the fascists. bottom line… she blames the ukies and is moving to Russia.

      Reuters spin–
      “BEZIMENNE, Ukraine, May 1 (Reuters) – Cowering in the labyrinth of Soviet-era bunkers far beneath the vast Azovstal steel works, Natalia Usmanova felt her heart would stop she was so terrified as Russian bombs rained down on Mariupol, sprinkling her with concrete dust.”

      Her full story is on Youtube (for now). 2 minutes. She lays it out. must view.

  4. The Rev Kev

    Certainly the news media are doing their part to maintain the narrative of heroic, brave defenders in Azovstal plant. So one of the civilians that came out in that large group gave an interview. She said that originally her and a lot of other people went there because they figured that it would be safe from bombardment and in this they were correct. What they did not figure on was those Azov soldiers coming there and using them as a shield.

    They told the civilians that Mariupol was totally flattened, that the exits were mined and that they could not get out. But as she finished that interview, she said that because of what her fellow Ukrainians had done to them that she was finished with the Ukraine. She was done with them. Needless to say, western reporters either cut that interview footage short or only used her image.

    As for those Azov soldiers, it is getting interesting. These people have habitually used violence to solve problems with and enjoyed being the State’s “enforcers” against those weaker than them. And if there was any trouble, they were never punished for it. And now they find themselves in a situation where their violence cannot help them anymore. And that actions have consequences. Nonetheless, they are still demanding that they keep their weapons and get flown to Turkey so that they can be flown back to Kiev.

  5. lance ringquist

    and there it is, in plain site in black and white,

    “It is a fact that many Western countries recognised Kosovo as an independent state.* We did the same with the Donbass republics. After that, they asked us to provide them with military assistance to deal with the state that launched military operations against them. We had the right to do so in full compliance with Chapter VII, Article 51 of the UN Charter.”

    america has always had a war problem, based on trade. but nafta billy clinton super charged it. he made it official policy, and provided legal cover for it.

    nafta billy was involved in four wars or military actions, bush two of them, empty suit hollowman obama, set some sort of record, what was it, 5-7 maybe more?

    he gave the nulands, the rices, the powers as well as his own wife the power to pound countries into the dirt if they did not allow their countries to be pillaged and plundered under free trade.

    nafta billy then made it official government policy. and americans wonder why this is happening.

  6. Chris

    So what happened? Did the foreign combatents get sprung? How many people actually boarded all those buses? Was the apparent attempt foiled?

    1. Polar Socialist

      About 45 or so, if my memory serves. 20 trough the humanitarian corridor and 25 by just walking out on their own during a truce.

      What “killed the deal” was that Russians allowed only civilians to leave in the busses, and even then through filtering centers in Donbass.

      Any military personnel would have had to come out without weapons and surrender. Almost like there was a war going on.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      The rumor is the Russians captured a high value target, a suspiciously recently retired Canadian general Cadieu (as of early April; one would assume he had gone to the theater before then) who was trying to exit with civilians. The Chechens apparently are very good at identifying soldiers; they’ve been tasked to screening everyone leaving in the previous Mariupol humanitarian corridors.

      Remember the Russians are planning to hold war crimes trials…..

      1. JohnA

        The Russians are also making anyone exiting strip to reveal any incriminating tattoos. In addition to swastikas, SS symbols etc., I even saw a clip of one guy with a Hitler tattoo on his forearm. Bit of a giveaway, to say the least.

  7. orlbucfan

    There are no winners here. First, the sacrifice of the young folks in Chernobyl. Now, the neo-Nazis and their Far Rightwingnut allies are using innocent people as human shields. And, yes, I’m old enough to remember Dag Hammarskjold. He was an honorable man. I, for one, would like to see the so-called American Empire brought to its knees. Nuland, Albright? Gag me with a spoon!

  8. David

    As often with Helmer, what you get is a pile of facts, assertions and speculation mixed together, without any attempt at a logical structure. (The answer to the question in the title is obviously “no.”)
    Insofar as there’s a structure at all, it seems to amount to:

    -The Russians say one thing.
    -The UN says another thing.
    – Helmer believes the Russians.
    – Hammarskjold may have been assassinated.
    – Therefore the SG is a war criminal.,

    Maybe. There’s certainly something strange going on at Azovstal, but of course if the UN were evacuating foreign combatants it would have to have been with Russian agreement for practical reasons. So this may just be different versions of the same story.

    CT buffs have been swapping theories about the crash of Hammarskjold’s plane for years. The most popular theory is that the plane was shot down, and I seem to remember one person who apparently confessed to being the pilot involved before he died. But it may also have just been an accident.

    1. Ludus57

      Could you please put in a link? I would like to read the article you appear to have read.
      I have struggled to find assertions and speculations mixed in with the facts in this rather informative and refreshingly direct description of what is really going on.
      I subscribe to the print edition of The Guardian, but really, really wonder why, these days.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      No, Russia absolutely is not on board with evacuating foreign combatants. Putin has said the only people free to leave were civilians and if they weren’t leaving, it wasn’t the doing of Russian forces.

      It has war crimes trials planned. Foreign participants would be extremely valuable sources of information and potentially witnesses.

      1. John F

        It is the stuff of conspiracy that accuse the UN Sec General of colluding or attempting to sneak out combatants among any civilian evacuation. David’s main point stands “As often with Helmer, what you get is a pile of facts, assertions and speculation mixed together, without any attempt at a logical structure.”

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Oh really? You are straw manning Helmer. Please tell me where he says that. He says the Russian side was very concerned about that and the UN side gave no or very squirrely answers. He drops a lot of bread crumbs but does not come to a conclusion. The onus is on you to disprove what he says or provide contrary bread crumbs.

          The fact is one at least high value combatant is reported to have succeeded in sneaking out in precisely this manner, Canadian general Cadieu, who is reported to have been transported to Moscow. Cadieu curiously was cut loose, or technically retired, in early April (IIRC April 6 or 9), which was after the factory was under siege. There are rumored to be others. Recall all the calls that Macron initiated with Putin about the factory, as well as the repeated Ukraine attempts to get people out by helicopters, which was insanely dangerous and costly. Ukraine lost at least 5 helicopters and pilots, which were very scarce assets.

          Since Russia plans to hold war crimes trials and as Helmer pounds in, detaining civilians in these circumstances is a war crime, any combatants that Russia captures, particularly non-Ukrainian ones, would be seen as more credible than Ukrainian ones, who’ve been so severely propagandized regarding Russian treatment of POWs that they could be seen as willing to say anything to save their hides.

          CT has become the cheap shot of those who aren’t willing to make an argument on merits.

    3. JohnA

      There is extremely compelling evidence that Hammarskjöld was assassinated, probably by the French. The plane crash was very definitely not an accident.

      1. John F

        There is evidence to support a number of theories around the downing of Dag H, the plane was to a 99% certainty shot down, either deliberately or in error. However that incident from 60 years ago adds no substance to the conspiracy theories claiming that the current UN Sec Gen was colluding or complying with attempts to sneak out combatants in among the evacuation of civilians

  9. Susan the other

    Maybe Guterres’ going home with all his empty buses is a red herring. We won’t know the fate of the Azovstal nazis and mercenaries until the Russians open up the plant and discover who remains. There was no follow-up on the report that NATO had asked Erdogan to take an evacuation ship to Odessa or Mariupol (? one of the two) to rescue the Azovstal “soldiers” – and right after that request, which Erdogan did not publicly answer, Putin called a cease fire. So maybe the only people left in the steel plant were the civilian hostages. Regardless, NATO is guilty of war crimes and Guterres has created some innocent looking confusion that can be spun later to claim the UN did all it could. Nobody will ever claim any successful rescue by Erdogan. So there will never be any proof nor any charges of war crimes or anything else.

  10. Polar Socialist

    The Russian media reported today that according to the Russian MoD the evacuation of the civilians from Azovstal has now ended. For reasons unknown Russians report total of 176 civilians evacuated from the area in three days of humanitarian corridors, while Guterres is reporting UN and Red Cross have evacuated 500 people. No reason for the mismatch is given.

    Russian media is also reporting that Ukrainian soldiers approached under a white flag to negotiate with the Russian troops. Apparently they refuse to negotiate with DNR militia. So far it’s not reported what the negotiations are about.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      See above. The difference between 176 and 500 may be soldiers attempting to pass as civilians that the Chechens/Donbass militias detained. They look at lots of signs: certain calluses from gun/rifle use, carrying gear, etc.

      1. JoeC100

        And tattoos… I think this is usually the first thing looked for – lots of this on Telegram

      2. Polar Socialist

        That’s what I was thinking, too, but decided to just report what the Russian media said or didn’t say.

        It was later corrected that Guterres was “misinformed by his envoys” and that the actual number of evacuated civilians was indeed 176.

        All parties seem to agree that there are no more civilians in Azovstal. Russians/DNR also claim to be in control of the huge mountain of slag on the south side of the factory area.

      3. Ricardo Ramirez

        It’s amazing how much the nazis like to tattoo themselves with all their imagery.

        1. digi_owl

          Nothing says dedication to the cause like being permanently branded.

          Something that you see not just in nazi groups.

    2. The Rev Kev

      ‘Russian media is also reporting that Ukrainian soldiers approached under a white flag to negotiate with the Russian troops. Apparently they refuse to negotiate with DNR militia.’

      Is that like the time that the British tried to refuse to surrender to the Americans at Yorktown and surrender to the French instead? But the French commander pointed to the Americans and informed the British that the Americans colonialists had command there.

  11. Scott1

    During the previous Cold War all Russian or USSR “journalists” were spies. They have again become discredited as anywhere near unbiased. I’m saying that “Russian Journalist” is an oxymoron.
    Baby Stalin Putin has made clear his belief in Russian ownership of Ukraine. This belief affects whatever he has to say about reasoning used to justify the invasion. Questions about who is a civilian and who is a soldier would not have arisen had Russia under Putin’s command simply not invaded Ukraine.
    Guterres as Secretary General of the UN does not have any Army to use to enforce UN treaties or International Law. Hence it is a war of words.
    I do not have a journalistic organization with the means to find the civilians either in Ukraine or in Russian territory post their being bused anywhere.

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