“We understand what it means to be a prisoner,” Major Nadtochii said in an interview. “We understand that they are working them over, and not in the nicest way.”
Since the explosion, Major Nadtochii said, he had been scrambling to gather information about the condition of his troops, but remained largely in the dark. The few soldiers he had been able to contact at Olenivka, who were in another location the night of the explosion, described only hearing two bangs. He confirmed that the lists of dead and wounded provided by the Russian government consisted primarily of Azov troops, though he suspected Russian authorities were hiding the true scope of the carnage.
“Honestly nothing surprises me in this war anymore, but somewhere deep in my soul there was hope that nevertheless they were human and might adhere to agreements and rules for conducting war,” he said. “But I’ve become convinced that these are not people, they’re animals.”
The Azov Regiment has become central to the Kremlin’s war narrative. Though now incorporated into the Ukrainian armed forces, its origins as a strongly nationalist volunteer paramilitary group with ties to right-wing fringe figures has been used by the Kremlin to falsely paint all of Ukraine as fascist and to claim that Russia is engaged in “denazification.”
On Tuesday, Russia’s Supreme Court declared the Azov Regiment a terrorist organization, raising fears in Ukraine that Russian prosecutors could eventually charge captive Azov soldiers with grave crimes and block their return to Ukraine in prisoner swaps.
In response to the designation, Ukraine’s National Guard issued a statement reaffirming the Azov Regiment’s place within the chain of command of the Ukrainian armed forces.