Uncertainty about the fate of Azovstal fighters in Mariupol
Fighting continues on Ukrainian soil, particularly at the Azovstal steel plant in the strategic port of Mariupol in the southeast of the country. The Russian Defense Ministry said yesterday that “959 fighters [ukrainiens] including 80 wounded have become prisoners” since Monday. Information that Ukraine had not commented on.
“Commanders and high-ranking fighters in the [régiment] Azov have not yet emerged” from the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance in this port city, assured Denis Pushilin, a pro-Russian separatist leader. According to him, a thousand members of this paramilitary unit integrated into the Ukrainian army were still hiding there.
Ukraine gave the same figure last week. Several hundred civilians had taken refuge in these basements, they were evacuated at the end of April.
The Russian army concentrated its efforts on Wednesday “on blocking our units near Azovstal” with artillery fire and airstrikes, the Ukrainian forces’ general staff reported.
In the streets of the Ukrainian capital, the population paid tribute to the “supermen” of this steel complex. They “achieved impossible things,” commented Andriï, 37.
The total capture of Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov, would constitute an important advance for Russia. It would allow it to connect by land the Crimean peninsula (South), which Moscow annexed in 2014, to the parts of Donbass (East) already in the hands of pro-Russian separatists. But the city is destroyed “90%” and “40% of its infrastructure” is “unrecoverable”, described, in early April, its mayor Vadim Boïtchenko.
“The Russians fly to Mariupol. The occupants are now trying to put the commercial port in order to export the equivalent of millions of dollars of cereals, metallurgical products “in particular, argued Wednesday evening, on Telegram the town hall of Mariupol.
According to a US official speaking on condition of anonymity on Wednesday, “Russian officials acknowledge that despite claiming to be the ‘liberators’ of the Russian-speaking city of Mariupol, Russian troops are committing serious acts in the city, including the beating and electrocution of city officials, and they loot homes”.
“Russian officials are concerned that these acts may further incite the residents of Mariupol to resist the Russian occupation,” he continued.