After being evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, dozens of wounded Ukrainian soldiers arrived in Novoazovsk.
According to Hanna Malyar, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, 53 soldiers were taken to hospital in the Russian-controlled city, which is about 30 miles east of Mariupol.
Another 211 people have been taken to Olenivka (about 55 miles north) through humanitarian corridors. She said that they would be exchanging with Russian military prisoners prior to their return home.
For weeks, the soldiers were the last remaining pocket of resistance against the Russian advance in Mariupol, a strategically-important city on the north coast of the Sea of Azov.
Ms Malyar stated that “Thanks to the Defenders of Mariupol Ukraine gained critical important time, and they fulfilled all of their tasks. However, it is not possible to remove Azovstal using military means.
She said, “We are working hard to save people still in Azovstal,” without specifying how many people were left.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine, said Monday night that thanks to the actions of the Ukrainian military and the Armed Forces of Ukraine intelligence, as well the negotiating team, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the UN, it is possible to save the lives of our men.
“They have severely injured ones – they are receiving care.
“I would like to emphasize that Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes living today. This is our principle. These words are easily understood by anyone who is competent.
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Russia had earlier announced Monday that it would allow the wounded Ukrainian soldiers to leave the Steel Plant for treatment in a town controlled by pro-Moscow separatists.
Five buses with soldiers were seen leaving the steel plant on Monday night.
On Facebook, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces stated that the supreme military command had ordered the commanders of units stationed in Azovstal to save lives.
“Efforts continue to rescue Azovstal defenders.”
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Azovstal’s pounding – images that speak a thousand words
It was believed that there were several thousand Ukrainian soldiers in the steelworks, and a few hundred civilians. As Russian soldiers closed in, it was also thought that there were some thousand Russian troops.
According to the Azov Regiment, its troops in Mariupol (a strategically important Ukrainian city in the south), had held off for 82 days. This allowed time for Ukraine to fight Russian forces as well as secure Western weapons.
Mariupol soldiers, along with civilians, faced severe food, water, and electricity shortages for much of the time.
According to Ukraine, Mariupol has seen tens of thousands of deaths. Much of Mariupol is now in ruins.