Russia has gained full control of Ukraine’s Mariupol after the last Ukrainian soldiers were evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant on Monday.
Late on Monday, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, Hanna Maliar, said that 53 heavily wounded soldiers were evacuated to a hospital in the Russian-controlled town of Novoazovsk. More than 200 others were transported through a corridor to Olenivka, Maliar said.
Main goal is to “save the lives” of Ukraine’s soldiers in Mariupol
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said that the soldiers defending the steel plant had “performed their combat task” and now the main goal was to save the lives of personnel.
By holding the steelworks, they stopped Russian forces from rapidly capturing the southern city of Zaporizhzhia, its statement on Facebook said.
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) May 17, 2022
It was unclear how many soldiers remained in Mariupol’s steel plant, but Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, 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 82nd day of our defense is coming to an end. A difficult day. But this day, like all others, is aimed precisely at saving our country and our people,” Zelensky said.
Hero label is often overused. But not in this case. Carrying their wounded comrades, 🇺🇦 military leave the #Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol. These look 2b the 264 fighters reported earlier as leaving for occupied 🇷🇺. President Zelensky said we're working to "bring our lads home." pic.twitter.com/YqKkMl96ZX
— Glasnost Gone (@GlasnostGone) May 17, 2022
Russia established a ceasefire in the Mariupol plant
Earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry had said that a ceasefire had been established to allow the passage of wounded Ukrainian servicemen, according to state news agency RIA Novosti.
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 at the plant even after the rest of the city had fallen to Russian forces. Some 600 troops were believed to have been inside the steel plant.