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Evacuation of Ukrainian soldiers is underway from Azovstal in occupied Mariupol

Azovstal under Russian bombardment. Photo: Azov Regiment’s TG channel
After 82 days of holding a siege, Ukrainian soldiers from the Mariupol garrison are being evacuated from the last remaining Ukrainian fortress of Mariupol, Azovstal steelworks. Ukraine’s military command gave the order to preserve the life of personnel. 53 seriously injured soldiers were evacuated to a medical facility in Novoazovsk for medical care and 211 people were taken to Olenivka, where they will await a prisoner swap.

Will be updated…

Reuters reported that about a dozen buses carrying wounded Ukrainian fighters had left the Azovstal steelworks on Monday evening and arrived in Novoazovsk, occupied by Russian troops.

The unit’s commander Denys Prokopenko released a video with the following comment:

“The defenders of Mariupol carried out the order, despite all the difficulties, distracted the overwhelming forces of the enemy for 82 days and allowed the Ukrainian army to regroup, train more personnel and receive a large number of weapons from partner countries. No weapon will work without professionally trained servicemen, making them the most valuable element of the army. In order to save lives, the entire Mariupol garrison is implementing the approved decision of the Supreme Military Command and hopes for the support of the Ukrainian people.”

In a Facebook post, the General Staff said that the Mariupol garrison had fully implemented its combat mission and has been ordered by the higher military command to save the lives of personnel.

“The defenders of Mariupol are the heroes of our time. They are forever inscribed in history. They include the separate special unit “Azov,” the 12th Brigade of the National Guard of Ukraine, the 36th Separate Marine Brigade, border guards, police, volunteers, the Territorial Defense of Mariupol,” the General Staff wrote.

It added that by holding their positions on Azovstal, the Mariupol defenders thwarted Russian plans, preventing the transfer of up to 17 Russian battalion tactical groups (about 20,000 personnel) to other areas of Ukraine. This thwarted the Russian plan to rapidly capture Zaporizhzhia and reach the administrative border of Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts, which would have created conditions for the encirclement of Ukrainian forces in Donbas.

“Binding the main forces of the enemy around Mariupol gave us the opportunity to prepare and create defensive lines, where our troops are today, and give a decent rebuff to the aggressor. We have received critical time to form reserves, regroup forces, and receive assistance from partners. The most important common task of all Ukraine and the whole world is to save the lives of the defenders of Mariupol. We will fight for you on all fronts as faithfully as you defend the state!” the General Staff wrote.

In a video address, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said that the operation to rescue the Mariupol defenders trapped in Azovstal was launched by the Intelligence Directorate, the Ministry of Defense, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the National Guard, and the Border Guard Service. According to her,  53 seriously injured defenders were evacuated to a medical facility in Novoazovsk for medical care and 211 people were taken to Olenivka through a humanitarian corridor. They will be returned home through an exchange procedure.

As for the remaining defenders, rescue efforts are still being continued.

“Unfortunately, we do not have the opportunity to unblock Azovstal by military means. The most important common task of all Ukraine and the whole world is to save the lives of the defenders of Mariupol,” she said.

There were an estimated 600 soldiers trapped in Azovstal.

Ukraine needs its defenders alive – Zelenskyy

In an evening video address, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy informed that Ukraine is trying to save the military from Azovstal with the efforts of the Army, Ukrainian intelligence, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and a UN negotiating team. 221 servicemen were taken to the occupied territory for a further exchange, 53 seriously wounded defenders were taken to a hospital on the territory of occupied Donetsk Oblast:

“I want to stress that Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive. This is the principle of our work. I think that every reasonable person will understand these words.”

He added that the work to return the defenders home continues, and it needs “delicacy and time.”

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