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22 Aug, 2022 07:15

Zelensky warns against putting neo-Nazis on trial

Russia will “cut itself off” from talks if Azov fighters are prosecuted in Donbass, Ukrainian president insists
Zelensky warns against putting neo-Nazis on trial

There will be no more peace talks with Russia if captured Ukrainian Neo-Nazis are subjected to a “show trial,” the country's President Vladimir Zelensky has claimed.

The authorities of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) have previously said that they are planning tribunals for suspected war crimes committed by Ukrainian troops, including members of the Azov Battalion, whose ranks include fighters with openly nationalist and neo-Nazi views.

“If this despicable show trial takes place… This will be the line beyond which any negotiations are impossible. Russia will cut itself off from any negotiations,” Zelensky said in a video address early Monday, adding that such a trial would be a violation of international law.

Zelensky’s statement comes after photos appeared on social media allegedly showing large cages being installed on the stage of the Mariupol Philharmonic. Ukraine’s military intelligence service, the GUR, said that the cells will be used to house Ukrainian troops captured by Russian and Donbass forces during the siege of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. They were largely drawn from the Azov Battalion.

DPR head Denis Pushilin told TASS this month that “active preparations” for the proceedings were underway. “The first tribunal will most likely be held in Mariupol. It will be organized by the end of summer,” he said.

The peace talks between Russia and Ukraine have been stalled since spring.

Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev’s failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev’s main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and “create powerful armed forces.”

In February 2022, the Kremlin recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.