Ukrainian troops began evacuating soldiers from the last base of the besieged port city of Mariupol on May 16. This marks the end of the 82-day conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which may have been a serious defeat for Ukraine.
It is estimated that approximately 600 members of the Azov battalion have been in the Soviet-era Azovstal ironworks in the eastern part of the country for several weeks.
In eastern Ukraine, there are two pro-Russian separatist states, the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic, which admit that Russia is independent of Ukraine, but the Azov corps considers it occupying a terrorist state. increase.
In a Facebook post on May 16, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Army said: statement Fifty-three “seriously injured” soldiers were evacuated and taken to the town of Novaazovsk, housed by Russian-backed rebels. Another 211 were taken to Olenifka through the humanitarian corridor and exchanged for Russian prisoners.
Measures are underway to rescue the remaining soldiers, the staff said.
The statement did not describe the withdrawal as surrender, but said the commander of the Azofustari factory-based unit was ordered to “save the lives of personnel.”
“The defenders of Mariupol’s are the heroes of our time,” said the staff. “They are forever in history. This is another squad of special purpose” Azov “. [sic] 12th Brigade of the National Guard of Ukraine, 36th Independent Navy Brigade, Border Guard, Police Officers, Volunteers, Territorial Defense Forces Mariupol. “
The Azov Battalion began in 2014 as a paramilitary organization of volunteers during the War in Donbas in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and pro-Ukrainian troops after the overthrow of the pro-Russian Ukrainian government in the 2014 revolution. rice field.
The battalion was later formally incorporated into the National Guard of Ukraine as a regiment, but there was controversy over the group’s neo-Nazi relations and the use of the Wolfsangel symbol, which was also used by the German Nazi army during World War II. was.
In justifying the invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin quoted the neo-Nazi element of the Azov Battalion and called for “denazification” of the region.
According to a statement from the Ukrainian staff, the Azov Battalion maintained its position at the steelworks, preventing Russian troops from rapidly occupying the southern city of Zaporizhia.
About 12 buses, which appear to carry Ukrainian fighters, were seen leaving the Mariupol factory on May 16. Reuters..One of the buses Marked The Latin letter “Z”, which is an abbreviation for the phrase “for victory,” carried an injured man lying on a stretcher.
Hundreds of civilians had been evacuated to the factory, but Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Bereshuk announced earlier this month that they had been evacuated.
A few hours before the evacuation began, the Russian Ministry of Defense said it was. Agreed reached To get rid of the injured soldiers.
“A humanitarian corridor has been opened and injured Ukrainian soldiers are being taken to a medical facility in Novaazovsk,” the ministry said.
The Kremlin was announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin Personal guarantee Prisoners will be treated according to international standards.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called May 16 a “difficult” day, “the 82nd day of defense is nearing its end.”
“But this day, like everyone else, is exactly about saving our country and people,” he said. statement..
“Thanks to the actions of the Ukrainian Army, the Ukrainian Army, intelligence agencies, the negotiating team, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the United Nations, we hope we can save the lives of our people, some of whom are seriously injured. I am receiving medical assistance. “
“I would like to emphasize that Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes to be alive. This is our principle. I think anyone who is right can understand these words,” he adds. I did.
Zelenskyy also emphasized that operations and negotiations to “take the boys home” are underway and require “sensitivity and time.”
The steelworks was once the last fortress owned by Ukraine in the port city of Mariupol, which was home to more than 400,000 people.
Despite reduced food, water, electricity and heat supplies, about 100,000 civilians are reported to remain, but Ukrainian officials say months of bombardment by Russian troops. After that, the city is now in ruins.
During the evacuation of the Azov Battalion, the fighting continued at the forefront of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, U.S. officials are urgently advancing Sweden’s NATO application after announcing that it will follow Finland’s footsteps and apply to the alliance to strengthen security in the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. I promised.