Situation in Azovstal steel plant 'desperate,' Ukraine says

Mariupol city council claimed more than 1,000 civilians are in the plant.

April 21, 2022, 11:22 AM

Ukraine claimed on Thursday that hundreds of people remain trapped in the Azovstal steel plant where the situation has become "desparate."

Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed the Ukrainian army continues to fight in the besieged Mariupol, saying that the situation in Azovstal is "desparate" with hundreds of civilians, children and injured fighters trapped in the plant with nearly no food, water or essential medicine.

"Azovstal is being constantly bombarded by Russia despite large numbers of civilians sheltering there. Ukrainians don't trust [Russian] troops, are afraid of being deported, killed. An urgent humanitarian corridor is needed from the Azovstal plant with guarantees people will be safe," the Ukrainian MFA said in a tweet.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops not to attack the Azovstal plant, in a televised meeting with defense minister Sergei Shoigu. Shoigu said it would take Russian forces three to four days to take control of the industrial zone of the plant.

PHOTO: A map overlays a satellite image of Mariupol, Ukraine, locating the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works and port.
A map overlays a satellite image of Mariupol, Ukraine, locating the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works and port.
AP

Putin also claimed the Mariupol operation a success, congratulating his defense minister and thanking Russian troops.

"The completion of the combat work to liberate Mariupol is a success," Putin told Shoigu on Thursday. "I congratulate you. Convey words of gratitude to the troops."

Ukraine's presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich addressed Putin's comments in a press conference Thursday and said that Ukrainian troops continue to hold the plant and Russia would not storm Azovstal because they have suffered huge losses and redeployed some of their troops.

A Ukrainian commander of the regiment at that factory said Ukrainian troops there are ready to surrender if they can be guaranteed protection by a third party and are allowed to take the bodies of their dead with them.

Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy's office called for negotiations inside Mariupol to get anyone left in the factory out of the area alive.

President Joe Biden pushed back against Putin's claim that Russian forces have taken control of Mariupol.

"It's questionable whether he does control Mariupol. One thing for sure we know about Mariupol, he should allow humanitarian corridors to let people on that steel mill and other places are buried under rubble to get out. That's what any head of state would do in such a circumstance," Biden said.

"There is no evidence yet that Mariupol has completely fallen," he added.

On Wednesday, Russia's military issued another warning to Ukrainian forces at the plant, telling them to lay down their arms and leave, according to Russian state media.

Russia claimed a ceasefire would begin at the Azovstal steel plant at 2 p.m. Moscow time on Wednesday to allow Ukrainian fighters to safely leave. Ukrainian forces rejected a similar offer on Tuesday.

PHOTO: An elderly woman walks past a residential building heavily damaged during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 21, 2022.
An elderly woman walks past a residential building heavily damaged during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 21, 2022.
Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

The Mariupol city council claimed Tuesday that there are at least 1,000 civilians seeking shelter in the plant, mostly women with children and the elderly. Ukrainian authorities have not confirmed the number of Ukrainian marines and fighters at the site.

A Russian official, Dmitry Polyansky, accused Ukrainian troops of using civilians at the plant as human shields.

"One month into the siege of Azovstal plant, those same radicals and neo-Nazis suddenly declared that allegedly there had been civilians inside the plant all that time, even though until yesterday, they had never uttered a word about it," Polyansky told the U.N. Security Council during a session on Ukraine on Tuesday.

PHOTO: Smoke rises above a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, April 21, 2022.
Smoke rises above a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, April 21, 2022.
Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

In a video posted online, Serhiy Voyna, the commander of the 36th Separate Marine Brigade and commander for Ukraine's marines in Mariupol, made an appeal to world leaders, asking for an extraction from the plant to the territory of a third-party state.

"This could be the last appeal of our lives. We are probably facing our last days, if not hours. The enemy is outnumbering us 10 to 1. They have advantage in the air, in artillery, in their forces on land, in equipment and in tanks," Voyna said.

Voyna spoke to the Washington Post via satellite phone on Tuesday, and said his forces would not make the same mistake made by others and trust Russian guarantees of safe passage, only to see them open fire.

Voyna said more than 500 Mariupol military battalion soldiers are wounded.

"We are only defending one object, the Azovstal plant where, in addition to military personnel, there are also civilians who have fallen victim to this war. We appeal and plead to all world leaders to help us. We ask them to use the procedure of 'extraction' and take us to the territory of a third-party state," Voyna said.

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