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Ukraine ends Mariupol battle and evacuates fighters from Azovstal steelworks
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Ukrainian fighters ended their week-long defense of a beleaguered steel mill in the strategic port city of Mariupol, as hundreds of fighters – dozens of them seriously injured – were evacuated from the complex on Monday.

“Ukraine needs living Ukrainian heroes,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his evening speech as the delicate evacuation continued. “We hope we can save the lives of our guys. Among them are seriously injured, they receive medical aid.

The Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol and its network of underground tunnels served for weeks as shelter and last refuge for some 1,000 Ukrainian fighters, many of them from the Azov Regiment, one of the most skilled military units and the most controversial in Ukraine.

Mariupol officials said in mid-April that 1,000 civilians were also hiding in the underground network. They were trapped for weeks amid an intense Russian assault, before all women, children and the elderly were evacuated earlier this month. Those who managed to get to safety described the brutality of their long siege in the cold and fetid bunker, where they lived without sunlight and with dwindling food and water supplies.

How a Mariupol steel plant became an obstacle to the city’s resistance

The Russian bombardment of the Azovstal factory seems to have persisted in recent days. Videos posted on Telegram by pro-Russian and pro-kyiv officials over the weekend showed hot white munitions raining down on the plant. The type of ammunition could not be independently verified, but a British military expert told Reuters it looked like a phosphorus attack or incendiary weapons.

Ukrainian officials reached a ceasefire agreement with the Russian military on Monday, and dozens of buses were seen leaving the factory. The complex evacuation is coordinated with the assistance of the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Anna Malyar said 53 seriously injured soldiers had been taken to a hospital in Novoazovsk, a nearby town controlled by Russian-backed separatists. Another 211 were transported to another Russian-aligned village, Olenivka, she said. Moscow and kyiv negotiate an exchange of prisoners to secure their release.

Malyar said officials are still working to rescue the remaining soldiers, although it is unclear how many are still inside. Ukrainian authorities said last week that there were nearly 1,000 resistance fighters at the plant.

The Battle of Mariupol was one of the bloodiest and most publicized of the war. Russia devastated the southeastern Black Sea city, which had a rapidly growing population of around 450,000 before the invasion. Early on, forces from Moscow surrounded Mariupol, cut it off from water and electricity, and bombarded it incessantly, reducing much of the city to rubble.

At the scene of the Mariupol theater tragedy, Russia prepares for a parade

The loss of Mariupol is a major setback for Kyiv. It allows Russia to establish a vital land bridge between Crimea, the peninsula it annexed from Ukraine in 2014, with Russian-held territories to the east of Ukraine.

But Ukrainian military leaders said their troops there held off the Russians long enough to buy crucial time for forces fighting elsewhere. And Western officials have noted that with the exception of Mariupol, Russia has failed to make any significant gains in eastern Ukraine despite concentrating its resources there for weeks.

“We have had the necessary time to build up reserves, consolidate forces and get help from partners,” Ukraine’s military command said in a Monday update.

“The defenders of Mariupol are heroes of our time,” the command wrote. “They are forever in history.”

Adam Taylor, Niha Masih and Louisa Loveluck contributed to this report.

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