The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation recognized the Ukrainian battalion Azov, defending its country from the Russian invasion, as a terrorist organization, RIA Novosti reports.
Russia will now be able to try the Azov fighters as accomplices, participants and organizers of terrorists acts with tougher terms of imprisonment. Participants are facing a term of 10 to 20 years in prison, organizers - from 15 to 20 years.
This will also complicate the process of exchanging Ukrainian prisoners of war and increase the chances that they will be sent to trial in Russia.
The decision of the Russian Supreme Court was made following the claim of the Russian Prosecutor General's Office of the Russian Federation, filed in May. The court hearing was adjourned twice. Today's closed-door meeting, apparently quite by accident, took place after reports appeared that the Azov prisoners were killed by a deliberated Russian bombing of the penal colony near Donetsk.
Azov was formed as a volunteer battalion during the conflict in the Donbas in 2014. Subsequently, it was reorganized into a regiment and became part of the Ukrainian Army. The Azov fighters defended Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol for several weeks. In May, the servicemen surrendered under the guarantees of their subsequent exchange for Russian prisoners of war.
On July 29, Russian troops shelled the buildings of the penal colony in Olenivka, where Ukrainian POWs, including Azov fighters, were held. Several dozen prisoners died in the bombing.