Denis Pushilin, the head of the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) has said that no high-level Azov commanders have surrendered from Azovstal and that they still remain in the underground tunnels of the steelworks.
The leader of the Russian-backed separatist region of Donetsk has said on Wednesday that top-ranking Ukrainian commanders have not surrendered from the tunnels below the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol.
The Russian defence ministry has said that in the past 48 hours, 694 Ukrainian fighters, including members of the Azov regiment had surrendered to Russian forces.
During the initial surrender, there was always a doubt as to whether the top commanders would leave Azovstal or fight to the end against the Russian troops.
Denis Pushilin, head of the breakaway Donetsk People's Republic, which was only recognised officially by Russian President Vladimir Putin three days before the invasion of Ukraine, said: There are no commanders of the highest level (among those who surrendered) - they have not left."
"That is - so far," Pushilin added.
It remains unclear as to what the fate will be for the fighters who have surrendered so far from Azovstal. Ukraine hailed them as heroic resistance fighters, while Russian lawmakers labelled them as "Nazi criminals" who should face the harshest of punishments.
Denis Pushilin said that the fate of the surrendered Ukrainian fighters from Azovstal would be decided by the courts.
"As for war criminals as well as those who are nationalists, their fate, if they laid down their arms, should be decided by the courts. If the enemy has laid down arms, then his fate will be decided by the courts. If it is a Nazi criminal, then it's a tribunal."
The Azov Regiment, which started out as an extreme-right nationalist paramilitary group, is described by Moscow as a group of radically anti-Russian nationalist fighters and views them as modern-day Nazi sympathisers.
Ukraine has said that it has reformed the regiment away from its radical nationalist origins that it carried when it was formed in 2014, as a militia to fight Russian-backed separatists, to integrate it into the National Guard. Ukraine denies that the group is racist, fascist, or neo-Nazi.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said, what he refers to as a special military operation was required in Ukraine to stop the persecution of Russian speakers and to stop the United States from using Ukraine as a way of threatening Russia.
Ukraine has always denied that Kyiv persecuted Russian speakers and claims that Vladimir Putin is simply trying to control their country.
The Kremlin has said that all soldiers who have surrendered will be treated in line with international laws.