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Ukrainian forces say they have fulfilled their ‘combat mission’ in besieged Mariupol

Buses carrying Ukrainian forces servicemen from the besieged Azovstal steelworks drive away under pro-Russian army escort during the Ukrainian-Russian conflict in Mariupol, Ukraine, Monday, May 16.

More than 260 people have been rescued from the besieged Azovstal factory, including 53 seriously injured, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said.

In a video statement released on Monday evening, Malyar said that together the Ministry of Defense, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the National Guard and the Border Guard Service have launched a rescue operation for Mariupol defenders stranded in the territory. of the Azovstal plant.

She said “53 seriously injured people were evacuated from Azovstal to a medical facility in Novoazovsk [in territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic] for medical care.”

“Another 211 people were taken to Olenivka through the humanitarian corridor. An exchange procedure will be carried out to send them back home.

Olenivka is a town near Donetsk on the front line of the current fighting, but in Russian-occupied territory.

Malyar clarified that some defenders remain in Azovstal.

“As for the defenders who still remain in the territory of Azovstal, the rescue efforts are carried out by the joint efforts of the aforementioned agencies,” she said.

She added: “Thanks to the defenders of Mariupol, we have gained critical time to form reserves, consolidate forces and receive help from partners. The defenders of Mariupol fully fulfilled all the tasks set by the command.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have the possibility to unblock Azovstal by military means. The most important common task of all Ukraine and the whole world is to save the lives of the defenders of Mariupol,” Malyar said.

Shortly after Malyar’s statement was released, President Volodymyr Zelensky referred to the situation in Azovstal and also hinted that some Ukrainians remained inside the plant.

“Thanks to the actions of the Ukrainian military – the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the intelligence services, the negotiation team, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations, we hope that we can save the lives of our guys .”

“Among them are seriously injured. They are being treated. I want to emphasize that Ukraine needs living Ukrainian heroes. This is our principle.”

“The work continues to bring the boys home, and this work needs delicacy. And time.”

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