Zelensky says there will be no talks if Russia holds the tests

KYIV, Ukraine – President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine on Sunday threatened to cut off all negotiations with Russia if Ukrainian prisoners of war paraded in the city of Mariupol were captured and presented with what he called “a The demonstration court was absolutely disgusting and absurd.”

Zelensky’s comments not only reflect the horror many Ukrainians have expressed video has appeared showing the cage being built on the stage of Mariupol’s Philharmonic theater, but also domestic pressure on his government to do more to protect Ukrainian POWs

“No matter what the occupants are thinking, no matter what they are planning, the response of our state will be absolutely clear,” Mr. Zelensky said in his overnight speech. “This will be the line where any negotiations are impossible.”

This is not the first time Mr. Zelensky has tried to draw a red line in the negotiations as the fight approaches the six-month mark. Earlier, he said he would cut off negotiations if Moscow annexed the newly captured territories. And Mr Zelensky’s statement can also be seen as a message aimed primarily at his domestic audience, as there have been no serious negotiations for months on ending the war.

But the two governments still negotiate, sometimes through intermediaries. Grain shipments from Ukraine have been allowed to resume after negotiations with the United Nations and Turkey. The two sides also exchanged dead soldiers. And until an explosion last month at a Russian POW camp allegedly killed dozens of Ukrainian soldiersA channel for exchanging captives led to the swapping of several hundred fighters.

Ukraine remains remarkably united after Mr. Zelensky, but the prisoner of war issue is a frequent issue that sparks criticism of the wartime leader and his government.

In particular, many Ukrainians questioned the decision to order the soldiers to stand below Azovstal steel plant surrender before Mariupol’s final fall.

At the time, the Ukrainian government sought to assure the public that soldiers detained by Russia would be treated according to the Geneva Conventions – ensuring that they would have access to medical care and be sustainment.

But many Ukrainians, including relatives of prisoners, do not believe that the fighters will be treated under international law.

Their fears became more urgent when an explosion tore through the barracks at a prison camp in Olenivka, in Russian-occupied Ukraine, on July 29 and Russian media reported on the remains of dozens of Ukrainian soldiers killed. Russia claims that Ukraine killed its soldiers using an American precision missile, an allegation that the Kyiv government calls absurd. Ukrainian officials point to videos and photos which they say indicates that the Russians were behind the attack.

The explosion focused attention on Russia’s treatment of Ukrainian prisoners, especially those who surrendered at Mariupol, including members of the Azov regiment. The group’s far-right origins in 2014 were used by the Kremlin as propaganda to justify the false claim that it invaded Ukraine to remove Kyiv from a Nazi-controlled government.

And so Mr Zelensky’s statement on Sunday could be seen as a reflection of his need to demonstrate that his government is exhausting all avenues to try to protect soldiers, even if problems were largely out of their control.

On Monday, Moscow’s proxy leaders in eastern Ukraine told Russian state media that they are in the process of preparing for the court.

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