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Hundreds of Ukrainian fighters evacuated from Mariupol steelworks

Hundreds of fighters have been evacuated from a steel plant in Mariupol, southern Ukraine, after being locked up there for months under Russian bombardment.

The effort to evacuate the Azovstal steelworks marks a significant defeat for Ukraine as Russian invaders appear to have taken control of the beleaguered Black Sea port city.

More than 250 Ukrainian soldiers have been evacuated out of a total of around 600 who have been trapped in the steelworks for 82 days since Vladimir Putin launched the invasion on February 24.

Fifty-three wounded soldiers were taken to a hospital in the Russian-held city of Novoazovsk, some 32 kilometers (20 miles) east of Mariupol, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Anna Malyar said.

Another 211 people were taken to the town of Olenivka, in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatists, Ms Malyar said.

All evacuees will be subject to a possible prisoner swap with Russia, she added.

Among the evacuated troops, some are seriously injured, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

“We hope we can save the lives of our guys,” he said in a late-night speech to the Ukrainians.

“There are serious injuries among them. They receive care. Ukraine needs living Ukrainian heroes.

Smoke rises from the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol during bombing by Russia

(Alexei Alexandrov/AP)

Earlier this week, fighters from the Azov Battalion – the neo-Nazi unit of Ukraine’s National Guard – said their comrades inside the factory were living in unsanitary conditions “with open wounds bandaged with remnants of bandages non-sterile, without the necessary medicines and even food”.

The images show a number of soldiers with missing limbs.

“The conditions they are in are horrific,” said Mariupol resident Alina Nesterenko. “I have no words to describe them. That’s why we are here. We beg, we implore in every way possible, we ask that our loved ones be saved.

Natalia Zaritskaya, whose husband is a member of the Azov regiment, described the “hellish” conditions at the factory.

“They are in hell. They receive new injuries every day. They are without legs or arms, exhausted, without medicine,” she said.

Ukrainian soldiers seriously injured in Azovstal on May 10, 2022

(Ukrainian National Guard Press Bureau Azov Special Forces Regiment)

After the evacuations, the Ukrainian military said it had “ordered the commanders of the units stationed in Azovstal to save the lives of the personnel” and that the troops there had fulfilled their combat mission.

Efforts to rescue the troops still inside were underway, the military added. He did not say how many fighters remained in Azovstal, where they remained in bunkers and tunnels deep underground to resist any nuclear attack from Russia.

Earlier this month, a number of civilians were evacuated from inside the plant, one of Europe’s largest metalworking facilities. About 1,000 women, children and the elderly had taken refuge in the steelworks’ underground tunnels, according to the Mariupol city council.

Mariupol is now in ruins following repeated Russian attacks on the city. Tens of thousands of people have been killed, Ukraine said.

The Independent Gt

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