Ukrainian forces leave Mariupol steel plant besieged by Russian forces
It would free up Russian forces for the country’s ongoing offensive in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine
Ukraine said Monday that it has halted combat at a steel plant held by Russian troops in Mariupol’s coastal city and evacuated more than 250 soldiers to Russian-controlled territories through a humanitarian corridor.
In his evening speech, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the evacuation was important to spare the troops who had been defending the facility for months, but that getting them back to Ukrainian-controlled territories needs delicacy and patience.
‘Ukraine needs living Ukrainian heroes’
“We expect to preserve the lives of our soldiers, thanks to the efforts of the Ukrainian military — the Armed Forces of Ukraine, intelligence, the negotiation team, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the United Nations,” Zelensky said.
“Among them are the badly injured, who are receiving medical attention,” he continued, adding, “I want to underline that Ukraine needs living Ukrainian heroes. This is our standard. I believe that any reasonable individual will comprehend this”
He went on to say that Ukrainian military and intelligence personnel began the operation to rescue Mariupol’s defenders and the job of bringing the soldiers home continues.
Ukraine’s military announced in a Facebook post that 53 badly injured troops were sent to a medical facility in Novoazovsk, Ukraine, east of Mariupol, while another 211 were transported to Olenivka through a humanitarian corridor.
However, an unknown number of Ukrainian servicemen remain in the factory, with rescue attempts ‘ongoing’. According to the Associated Press, it was unclear if the evacuated troops would be deemed prisoners of war.
A psychological success for Russia
Pertinently, Russia has already conquered practically all of Mariupol after weeks of besieging and bombing the city, so seizing the steel plant would mostly be a psychological success.
It would also free up Russian troops for the country’s continuing onslaught in eastern Ukraine‘s Donbas area, which has mainly stagnated or been thwarted by Ukrainian counter-offensives.
It is to be noted that for many weeks, tunnels under the Azovstal steel plant served as a refuge for hundreds of Ukrainian residents and troops while Russian forces conducted air and ground strikes on the vast facility.