Zelensky offers guarantees for Russian soldiers who surrender

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday offered guaranteed protections to Russian soldiers who surrender amid the conflict between the countries after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he was calling up 300,000 reservists to replenish Russian forces. 

Appealing directly to Russians during an address, Zelensky said Ukraine could guarantee three terms to Russian soldiers in exchange for their surrender. He said such Russians will be treated in a civilized manner, the circumstances of their surrender will remain undisclosed and Ukraine will find a way to ensure those who do not want to return to Russia are not exchanged. 

Putin announced the call ups on Wednesday as Ukraine pushes Russian forces back from territory they captured during the war. Ukraine has undertaken a major counteroffensive this month through which it has recaptured thousands of square kilometers of territory. 

Putin’s announcement sparked protests nationwide in Russia and led to more than 1,000 arrests. Flights out of the country sold out or their prices soared after Russia called up another round of soldiers, marking the first such mobilization since World War II. 

Zelensky said Russian authorities are aware they are sending citizens to their deaths but do not have any other option at this stage of the war. 

The Pentagon said last month that Russia has seen 70,000 to 80,000 casualties since its war in Ukraine began in February. 

“Russian commanders do not care about the lives of Russians. They just need to replenish the empty spaces left by the dead, wounded, those who fled or the Russian soldiers that were captured,” Zelensky said. 

He said every Russian citizen knows that Russia is the one bringing “evil” even if they do not admit it. He told Russians that surrendering to Ukrainian captivity is better than being killed in the war. 

“So, the key moment has come for you: right now it is being decided whether your life will end or not,” Zelensky said.

Putin reportedly signed laws on Saturday strengthening the penalty for Russian soldiers who voluntarily surrender to up to 10 years in prison. Those who refuse to engage in combat will also face 10 years imprisonment.

Tags Russia-Ukraine conflict Russia-Ukraine war Russian draft Russian surrender Vladimir Putin Vladimir Putin Vladimir Putin Volodymyr Zelensky Volodymyr Zelensky Volodymyr Zelensky
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