The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky stated that practically all defenders of Mariupol and civilians were taken out of the territory of Azovstal.
The fact that almost 2.5 thousand people left the plant, said in Russia. The Ministry of Defense reported to Vladimir Putin on the “completion of the operation” and control of the plant and the city.
Russia says Azovstal defenders have surrendered, and Ukraine is very cautious about what happened in Mariupol, calling it an evacuation, evacuation or operation.
Where were the people taken from Azovstal and what awaits them?
What Ukraine says
“Civilians, medics and the seriously injured have been deported. People are also being deported. It seems to me that in the near future, not in the coming days, but sometimes everyone will be deported,” Zelensky said in an interview with TV channels the day before.
The head of state noted that he was negotiating with the leaders of many countries to supply weapons to unblock the city or evacuate Ukrainian defenders.
According to him, it was not possible to unblock the approaches to Azovstal by military means due to the lack of adequate weapons, despite the “huge number of heroic people” who were ready to go to unlock the plant.
Therefore, said President Zelensky, the boys received a signal that they have every right to go out and save their lives.
He also said that “Azovstal” had “a large number of heroic people” – the National Guard and border guards, paratroopers and “Azovs”, SBU officers and medics.
The President also praised the “heroic pilots, who knew it was difficult, knew how to fly to Azovstal and bring them medicine, food, water, pick up the bodies of the wounded, it is almost impossible,” but still “flew there.”
“We lost a lot of pilots there,” said President Zelensky.
Zelensky did not say how many Ukrainian soldiers there were, he only clarified that there were 400 border guards there alone. And the police, SBU fighters, military and Azov.
What Russia says
Meanwhile, Russia’s Defense Ministry has announced the “release” of Azovstal. According to the Russian agency, 2,439 servicemen left Azovstal.
On Friday evening, a video appeared in the Russian state media and pro-government telegram channels with Azovstal defender Serhiy Volynsky, commander of the 36th Marine Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces (nicknamed “Volyn”), in which he introduced himself and confirmed that his taken prisoner. It was also alleged that Azov commander Denis Prokopenko (nickname “Radish”) and deputy commander Sviatoslav Palamar (call sign “Kalyna”) had left the plant. There were no videos with them.
The Russian Defense Ministry said that the commander of “Azov” Prokopenko was taken out of the plant in a special armored car allegedly “because of the hatred of Mariupol and the desire to punish him for numerous atrocities.”
What awaits the Ukrainian military
Russia’s Defense Ministry has reported that the wounded Azovstal defenders will be taken to medical facilities in Novoazovsk and Donetsk on the territory of the self-proclaimed DNR.
Most of the prisoners of war were sent to a penal colony in the village of Olenivka near Donetsk, according to Mariupol Mayor’s Adviser Petro Andryushchenko.
At least 89 people defending Azovstal were taken to SIZO-2 in Taganrog, Russia.
Ukraine expects to return the military to the controlled territory, said Volodymyr Zelensky. And Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said she hoped to exchange wounded Ukrainian servicemen after their recovery for Russian prisoners of war.
Many Russian politicians and pro-government media opposed the exchange. In particular, the speaker of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin instructed the committees of the State Duma to prepare a resolution banning the exchange of “Nazi criminals” (so called in the Duma members of the Ukrainian regiment “Azov”).
In response, Deputy Minister of Defense of Ukraine Hanna Malyar urged her citizens not to worry too much about the calls of Russian deputies not to exchange Azov Regiment fighters: these calls, in her opinion, can be aimed at the domestic audience.
Siege of Azovstal
Active hostilities at Azovstal began on March 18, 2022. In early March, Mariupol itself was surrounded by Russian troops. At the same time, Azovstal remained under the control of Ukraine, as the Ukrainian military, in particular from the Azov Regiment, which defended the plant, hid at the plant.
On April 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin “on camera”, meeting with the Minister of Defense, revoked the order to storm Azovstal and instructed the Russian military to block the plant. However, the bombing and assault on the plant did not stop.
The military and civilians who remained on Azovstal refused to surrender and were effectively blocked: they had almost no water, food, medicine or ammunition.
At the same time, the Russian military could not capture Azovstal. The plant occupies a huge area between the river Kalmius on the one hand and the shores of the Sea of Azov – on the other. The plant has its own cargo port and an extensive system of underground communications. The storming of such a fortified area by infantry units can take weeks without a guaranteed result.
The American Institute for War Studies (ISW) believes that Russian sources may exaggerate the number of Ukrainian servicemen who left Azovstal. According to ISW, this could be done either to agree on the exchange of the maximum number of prisoners, or to avoid the unpleasant admission that only “hundreds” of Ukrainian soldiers managed to keep the plant under control for so long.
In times of war, the Air Force cannot promptly verify information from officials of the warring parties.
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