Ukrainian steel mill fighters evacuate, declare mission complete
Tuesday’s rescue operation was underway to save the last defenders at the Azovstal steel facility in the ruined port of Mariupol. Officials from Ukraine said that the fighters had “completed” their mission and that there was no military way to liberate the plant.
To save as many people as possible, the Ukrainian military avoided the use of the term “surrender” in order to describe the effort to withdraw from the steel plant. Officials intended to continue trying to save the unknown number of fighters who remained behind. It was not clear if soldiers who were evacuated to Russian-controlled territories would be treated as prisoners of war.
The regiment that doggedly defended a steel mill as Ukraine’s last stronghold in the port city of Mariupol declared its mission complete Monday after more than 260 fighters, including some badly wounded, were evacuated.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the evacuation to separatist-controlled territory was done to save the lives of the fighters who endured weeks of Russian assaults in the maze of underground passages below the hulking Azovstal steelworks. He stated that the “heavily injured” were receiving medical attention.
“Ukraine must have Ukrainian heroes in order to live. He said that it was our principle. Unknown number of fighters remained behind to await rescue efforts.
The steel mill’s defenders got out as Moscow suffered another diplomatic setback in its war with Ukraine, with Sweden joining Finland in deciding to seek NATO membership. The Ukrainian forces reportedly drove Russian troops back to the Russian border at Kharkiv. This was a symbolic victory.
Still, Russian forces pounded targets in the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine known as the Donbas, and the death toll, already many thousands, kept climbing with the war set to enter its 12th week on Wednesday.
Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said 53 seriously wounded fighters were taken from the Azovstal plant to a hospital in Novoazovsk, east of Mariupol. An additional 211 fighters were evacuated to Olenivka through a humanitarian corridor. She stated that an exchange would be made for their return to home. Officials said they would continue to try to save those fighters who remained.
” The work to bring the men home continues, and it takes delicacy as well as time,” Zelenskyy stated.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced that the injured would be allowed to leave the steelworks for treatment in a town controlled by pro-Moscow separatists.
A group of buses left the steel mill at nightfall Monday with Russian military vehicles. Maliar confirmed that the evacuation took place later.
“Thanks for the defense of Mariupol, Ukraine was able to gain crucial time to organize reserves, regroup forces and get help from partners.” she stated. They accomplished all their tasks. It is impossible to deblock Azovstal using military means. “
The commander of the Azov Regiment, which led the defense of the plant, said in a prerecorded video message released Monday that the evacuation marked the end of the regiment’s mission. “Absolutely safe operations and plans don’t exist in war,” Lt. Col. Denis Prokopenko stated, adding that all risks were considered. The plan also included the saving of “as many personnel lives as possible.” “
Elsewhere in the Donbas, the eastern city of Sievierdonetsk came under heavy shelling that killed at least 10 people, said Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk region. Governor of the Donetsk Region, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said that nine civilians were killed in shelling. Pavlo Kyrylenko stated on Facebook that nine civilians died in the shelling.
On Tuesday morning, loud explosions rocked Lviv in western Ukraine. Witnesses reported hearing at least eight blasts and then distant booms. The smell of burning was also evident some time later. The Associated Press team in Lviv reported that the sky west was lit up by an orange glow.
But Ukrainian troops also advanced as Russian forces pulled back from around the northeastern city of Kharkiv in recent days. Zelenskyy thanked soldiers for pushing them all the way to Russia’s border in the Kharkiv area.
Video showed Ukrainian soldiers carrying a post that resembled a Ukrainian blue-and-yellow-striped border marker. They then placed the post on the ground, while twelve soldiers posed next to it with one of their bullet belts over his shoulder.
” I’m very thankful to you, on the behalf of all Ukrainians on my behalf, and on behalf my family,” Zelenskyy stated in a video message. “I’m very thankful to all the fighters such as you. “
The Ukrainian border service stated that the video of the soldiers was taken from the border in the Kharkiv area, but did not give any further details due to security concerns. It was not possible to confirm the exact location immediately.
Ukrainian border guards said they also stopped a Russian attempt to send sabotage and reconnaissance troops into the Sumy region, some 90 miles northwest of Kharkiv. Russia has suffered setbacks throughout the war, with the most notable being its failure to seize Kyiv’s capital. While the Donbas has seen a lot of fighting, it has also become a slow-moving battleground with both sides fighting village by village.
A senior U.S. defense officer said that
Howitzers originating from the U.S. and other nations have helped Kyiv gain ground or hold off against Russia. According to the U.S. military assessment, the official spoke under anonymity to discuss Ukraine’s push against Russia. However, he could not confirm whether it had made it all the way to the Russian border.
The official stated that Russian long-range strikes appeared to have also targeted a Ukrainian military training facility in Yavoriv, close to the Polish border. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Away from the battlefield Sweden’s decision to apply for NATO membership was a result of a similar decision made by Finland, a historic shift in the relationship between the two countries, which had been non-aligned for many generations.
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said her country would be in a “vulnerable position” during the application period and urged her fellow citizens to brace themselves. She stated that
“Russia had said it would take countermeasures if NATO is joined. “We cannot rule it out that Sweden could be exposed to disinformation and attempts at intimidation and division. “
But Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised objections to their joining. He accused the countries of failing take a “clear” position against Kurdish militants and other groups Ankara considers terrorists and of imposing military sanction on Turkey.
He said Swedish and Finnish officials who are expected in Turkey next week should not bother to come if they intend to try to convince Turkey of dropping its objection.
“How do we trust them? Erdogan asked the question at a news conference that was jointly held with the Algerian president.
All 30 current NATO members must agree to let the Nordic neighbors join. Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Moscow does not have a problem with Sweden or Finland when they apply for NATO membership. However, he said that the expansion of military infrastructure on this territory would lead to a response. “
Putin launched the invasion on Feb. 24 in what he said was an effort to check NATO’s expansion but has seen that strategy backfire. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that both countries could be a member in a short time.
Europe also wants to stop funding for the Kremlin’s war by reducing its dependence on Russian energy imports. Some countries that depend on Russian imports, such as Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, are opposed to a proposed EU embargo. There are also reservations about Bulgaria.
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