By John Friend
Russia is reporting that roughly 265 fighters holed up in the Azovstal steel and industrial facility in Mariupol, an industrial and transit hub on the Sea of Azov in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, have finally surrendered to Russian military personnel.
Russian military forces have battled a combination of regular Ukrainian military personnel as well as pro-Ukrainian nationalist battalions, including members of the Azov Battalion, in Mariupol for weeks. The city has been besieged by Russia since March resulting in much destruction and devastation due to heavy fighting and shelling in the area surrounding Azovstal, where Ukrainian armed forces utilized civilian infrastructure while engaging Russian military forces.
Many of those surrendering were wounded and needed immediate medical treatment. “All those in need of medical assistance were sent for treatment to a hospital in Novoazovsk,” a town about 30 miles away from Mariupol near the border with Russia, the Russian Ministry of Defense stated.
According to estimates, nearly 2,000 fighters and civilians may still be embedded in the Azovstal facility. Russia has repeatedly offered terms of surrender to the fighters at the plant, only to be largely rebuffed until recently. Mariupol itself has been under the control of Russian military forces, who have been aided by militias loyal to the Donetsk People’s Republic which claims the city as part of its territory, since late April.
Laughably, the Ukrainian government and military have announced that they have ended the combat mission at Mariupol in a bid to spin the situation as anything other than an unconditional surrender of Ukrainian armed forces to Russia military personnel.
“Thanks to the actions of the Ukrainian military — the Armed Forces of Ukraine, intelligence, the negotiating team, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations, we hope that we will be able to save the lives of our guys,” Ukrainian President Zelensky stated. “I want to emphasize: Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive. This is our principle. I think that every adequate person will understand these words.”
Ukraine’s military noted on Facebook that the “Mariupol garrison had fulfilled its combat mission,” and was now seeking to save the lives of the remaining fighters surrounded at the industrial plant through “evacuations.”
More fighters and others embedded in Azovstal are expected to surrender and evacuate in the coming days.