Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, Jana Maliar, said 53 soldiers were wounded and 211 other soldiers were wounded. The wounded were reportedly taken to Novoazovsk for treatment at a hospital about 45 kilometers east of Mariupol. The other soldiers went to Olenivka.
The Russian Defense Ministry had announced that a ceasefire had been agreed and the creation of a “humanitarian corridor” for the evacuation of Ukrainian soldiers. Twelve buses carrying Ukrainian soldiers were seen leaving the factory on Monday, accompanied by a convoy of pro-Russian forces.
‘Need heroes alive’
The Ukrainian military and President Volodymyr Zelensky later confirmed the operation. Zelensky referred to a “difficult day” in his daily video address. “But this day, like any other, is meant to save our country and our people.”
The president said he hoped that thanks to the actions of the Ukrainian army, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations, they could “save the lives of our men”. Among them were seriously injured. They get medical help. I want to emphasize that Ukraine needs living Ukrainian heroes. This is our principle. I think any suitable person would understand these words.”
“The operation to rescue the defenders of Mariupol was initiated by our army and intelligence officers. To bring the boys home, the work continues, and this work needs accuracy. And time.” Zelensky referred to “diplomatic activity.”
It is said that there were about 600 Ukrainian soldiers at the plant. The General Staff of the Armed Forces said in a statement that the forces defending the steel plant had completed their “combat mission”. The military commander ordered the unit commanders in Azovstal to save the lives of personnel. Efforts are continuing to rescue the defenders who are still on the territory of Azovstal.
Deputy Defense Minister Jana Malgar wrote on Facebook that the soldiers defending Mariupol have given Ukraine critical time to build reserves, regroup forces and receive assistance from partners. The task of defending Mariupol was completely accomplished. According to her, it was not possible to liberate the plant. The most important thing now is to save the lives of the defenders of Mariupol.
The port city of Mariupol was besieged shortly after the Russian invasion in February. The strategically important city came under heavy fire. Experts and the Ukrainian authorities estimate the deaths of thousands of civilians. After the siege, the city was gradually taken over by Russian forces. But the latest Ukrainian resistance is holed up in a large steel plant that has several floors underground. Then the Russians closed the plant tightly.
Hundreds of civilians have already been evacuated from the factory in recent days. They sought protection against the advance of the Russian army.
The withdrawal of the soldiers at the factory, who had no food and water left, was negotiated for a long time. In Ukraine, the government in Kyiv was also criticized for abandoning the defenders of Mariupol. The authorities constantly repeated that they were unable to break the siege imposed on the Russian forces.