More than 260 Ukrainian soldiers, many of them wounded, have been evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in the port city of Mariupol, appearing to cede control of the city to Russia after 82 days of bombardment.
Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, Hanna Maliar, said late on Monday that 53 heavily wounded soldiers were evacuated to a hospital in the Russian-controlled town of Novoazovsk and that more than 200 others were transported through a corridor to Olenivka. An “exchange procedure will take place” to bring evacuations home, she said.
It was unclear how many soldiers remained in the steel plant, but Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said “we hope to save the lives of our boys”.
“I want to underline: Ukraine needs its Ukrainian heroes alive. This is our principle,” he said in a video statement.
The evacuation is likely to mark the end of the longest and bloodiest battle of the Ukraine war and a significant defeat for Ukraine. Mariupol is now in ruins after a Russian siege that Ukraine says killed tens of thousands of people in the city.
For Ukrainians, the Azovstal plant has become a symbol of resistance, with hundreds of troops continuing to fight on there even after the rest of the city had fallen to Russian forces.
Some 600 troops were believed to have been inside the steel plant.
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said that the soldiers defending the steel plant had fulfilled their combat mission.
“The supreme military command ordered the commanders of the units stationed at Azovstal to save the lives of the personnel,” the General Staff said in a statement on its Facebook account. “Efforts to rescue defenders who remain on the territory of Azovstal continue.”
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Hello, this is Helen Livingstone, bringing you the latest developments on the war in Ukraine. Here’s a recap of the latest:
- The evacuation of wounded Ukrainian troops from the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol is under way, president Volodomyr Zelenskiy confirmed, with more than 260 fighters transported out of the plant. The troops have fulfilled their combat mission, the general staff of the armed forces said. Ukraine’s deputy defense minister has said an “exchange procedure will take place” to bring evacuations home.
- Ukraine’s Joint Forces Task Force said on Monday that 20 civiliansincluding a child, were killed in Russian shelling in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
- Western military sources say that Vladimir Putin is involved in the war in Ukraine “at the level of a colonel or brigadier”. The Russian leader is reportedly so personally involved he is helping determine the movement of forces in the Donbas.
- Ukrainian officials claimed that troops counter-attacking against Russian forces in the country’s north-east had pushed them back from the city of Kharkiv and advanced as far as the border with Russia.
- Russian forces have shelled frontline positions in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas area as fighting becomes increasingly focused on Severodonetskthe easternmost city still held by Ukrainian forces after more than 11 weeks of war.
- After Sweden and Finland yesterday confirmed plans to join Nato, Sweden is seeking to quell Turkish opposition by sending diplomats to the country. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said Turkey will not approve the bids, and that delegations from the countries should not bother coming.
- Vladimir Putin said Russia had “no problems” with Finland and Sweden. “And so in this sense there is no immediate threat to Russia from an expansion to include these countries,” Putin said. The comments appeared to mark a major shift in rhetoric, after years of casting Nato enlargement as a direct threat to Russia’s security. However he did say that the expansion of military infrastructure on their territory would demand a reaction from Moscow.
- Hungary has been accused of “holding the EU hostage” over its refusal to agree to an oil embargo against Russiaas the bloc struggles to reach consensus on its latest sanctions aimed at eroding the Kremlin’s ability to wage war.
- American fast-food giant McDonald’s will exit the Russian market and sell its business in the increasingly isolated country, the company said on Monday. Meanwhile, the Moscow city government is to take over a factory belonging to the French carmaker Renault and use it to revive the Soviet-era Moskvitch in Russia’s first major nationalization of a foreign company during its war in Ukraine.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism