Russia's Defense Ministry says 771 Ukrainian fighters at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol -- Ukraine's last stronghold in the besieged southern port city -- have "surrendered" in the last 24 hours, taking the total to 1,730 since May 16 as the Red Cross began registering "hundreds" of them.
The ministry said 80 of those who gave themselves up were wounded. All of them were reportedly transferred to territory in eastern Ukraine that is controlled by Kremlin-backed separatists.
There was no independent confirmation of the figure, and no indication of the fate of the troops still holed up in the compound. Moscow and Kyiv have given different estimates on the number of Ukrainian soldiers who were extracted from Azovstal.
Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said on May 18 that negotiations for their release were ongoing.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had started registering hundreds of prisoners of war (POWs) who were taken by Russia from Azovstal.
"Over the last 2 days, we’ve registered hundreds of prisoners of war leaving the Azovstal plant in Mariupol. Registering POWs is an essential part of our work. It's critical to ensure they're accounted for & treated humanely and with dignity," the ICRC said on Twitter on May 19.
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The ICRC said in a statement that the registration process, which is ongoing, involves documenting personal details such as name, date of birth, and closest relatives.
This "allows the ICRC to track those who have been captured and help them keep in touch with their families," the statement said.
It added that under the Geneva Conventions, the ICRC is allowed to interview prisoners of war "without witnesses" and that visits with them should not be "unduly restricted."
The UN’s humanitarian chief on May 19 urged Russia and Ukraine to build on the cooperation that was necessary to end the siege and enable the evacuation.
Martin Griffiths said operations to initially evacuate civilians and later fighters points the way back toward broader peace negotiations.
"Those operations could not have happened had it not been for cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Ukraine authorities," he told reporters in Geneva. The cooperation “suggests there is something to build on."
Griffiths called for the resumption of the stalled talks hosted by Turkey, which invited negotiators from Kyiv and Moscow to meet for two rounds of talks in March.
On the battlefield, Serhiy Hayday, the governor of the Luhansk region, said Russian shelling killed 12 people and injured more than 40 in Severodonetsk.
Hayday said the Russian military began shelling the city with heavy weapons early on May 19, adding that information on casualties was incomplete because it is impossible to access the area under fire. Hayday’s report could not be independently verified.
Oleksiy Gromov, deputy chief of the main operations department of the Ukrainian military, told a briefing that a group of Russian troops was trying to conduct offensive operations along the entire line of contact in Donetsk and there were active hostilities in the areas of Severodonetsk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiiv, and Kurakhiv.
Gromov also reported that Ukrainian forces have liberated 23 settlements in the Kharkiv region since May 5.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military said earlier that Russian forces had launched counterattacks around Kharkiv in an attempt to regain lost ground after being pushed back to the border.
In the area of the Velyka Komyshuvakha settlement, Russian forces suffered significant losses and were forced to withdraw to previously occupied positions, Ukraine's General Staff said on May 19.
The governor of the Russian region of Kursk said on May 19 that one person was killed and several wounded after what he said was a Ukrainian attack on a village near the border.
The British Ministry of Defense said in its daily intelligence bulletin on May 19 that Lieutenant General Sergei Kisel, who commanded the elite 1st Guards Tank Army, has been suspended for his failure to capture Kharkiv.
The British intelligence report said that Kisel was just one of the senior Russian officers who have been fired in recent weeks for their poor performance during the early stages of the invasion of Ukraine.
Among other Russian commanders who have likely been dismissed is Vice Admiral Igor Osipov, who commanded Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, following the sinking of the cruiser Moskva in April, British intelligence reported.
Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff of the Russian military, likely remains in his post, the bulletin said, adding that it was unclear whether he retains President Vladimir Putin's confidence.
A culture of cover-ups and scapegoating is probably prevalent within the Russian military and security system, the British bulletin said, concluding that this could place further strain on Russia's centralized model of command and control and make it more difficult for Moscow to regain the initiative in the conflict.
Meanwhile, an unnamed NATO military official with knowledge of the intelligence told CNN that the momentum in the conflict had shifted significantly in favor of Ukraine, although the alliance doesn't expect significant gains for either side in the coming weeks.
On the diplomatic front, U.S. President Joe Biden hosted the leaders of Finland and Sweden on May 19 and welcomed their NATO membership bids.
Biden expressed strong support for the applications of Sweden and Finland, calling them two “great democracies" and "highly capable partners.”
With reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa, BBC, and TASS