Russia began turning over the bodies and remains of Ukrainian fighters who were killed at the Azovstal Steelworks. This fortress-like facility in Mariupol, where they last-ditch stood became a symbol against Moscow’s invasion, has been taken over by Russia.

According to a spokesperson for the Azov Regiment, dozens of the bodies taken from the mill’s bombed-out ruins are now Russian-occupied. They have been transferred to Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital. DNA testing is currently underway to identify them.

The Azov Regiment was one of the Ukrainian units that protected the steelworks for almost three months, before it was surrendered to Russian forces in May.

It wasn’t clear how many bodies may still be at the plant.

Russian forces continued fighting for control of Sievierodonetsk in eastern Ukraine, which is crucial to Moscow’s goal to capture the industrial Donbass region.

According to Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian president, Moscow also plans to seize Zaporizhzhia in the southeast, which is home to over 700,000. This move could weaken Ukraine and allow Russia to move closer to the centre of the country.

Zelenskyy stated that “in the Zaporizhzhia area… there are the most dangerous situations there.”

The Kremlin was unable to capture Mariupol quickly because of the persistent defense of the steel mill by the Ukrainian fighters. They were able to tie down Russian forces in this strategic port city.

Russian authorities are uncertain about the fate of the defenders. Zelenskyy stated that more than 2,500 fighters are held in Russian hands and that Ukraine is trying to free them.

Russian officials and the Ukrainian government have not yet announced the recovery of their remains from Azovstal ruins. The Associated Press spoke to relatives of soldiers who were killed at the plant.

The first official confirmation of a swap between Ukraine’s military dead was made on Saturday. The two sides exchanged 320 corpses, with each side receiving 160 sets of remains. The swap was made at the Zaporizhzhia front line.

Spokeswoman for the Azov Regiment Anna Holovko stated that all 160 bodies of Ukrainians turned over to the Russians were taken from the Azovstal ruin. At least 52 of the bodies were believed to be from Azov Regiment soldiers, she said.

Maksym Zhorin (a former Azov Regiment leader who is now co-commanding an army unit based in Kyiv) confirmed that the bodies were from the steel plant.

According to the brother of Azov fighters who were missing in the steelworks and feared dead, the AP received confirmation from the Steelworks that at least two trucks with Azovstal bodies had been transferred to a Kyiv military hospital for identification.

Viacheslav Drofa stated that the remains of Dmitry Lisen (his elder brother) were not among those found so far. He said that some of the deceased were badly burned.

A mother of a soldier who was killed in an attack on the plant claimed that the Azov Regiment called her to inform her that her son’s body may be being transferred to Kyiv. She did not wish to identify her son or her mother by name because she was afraid that sharing the recovery process could disrupt it.