International Desk, May 16 (EFE).- More than 260 Ukrainian soldiers were evacuated on Monday from the Azovstal steelworks in the besieged city of Mariupol after more than 80 days of bombardment, the country’s Ministry of Defense reported.
Of the total, 53 seriously injured soldiers were evacuated to a medical center in Novoazovsk for medical treatment, and another 211 people were taken to Olenivka through the humanitarian corridor, Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said in a statement.
“As for the defenders who still remain in the territory of Azovstal, rescue efforts are being carried out by the joint efforts” of the Ministry of Defense, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the National Guard and the Border Guard Service, she added.
“Thanks to the defenders of Mariupol, we have gained critical time to form reserves, regroup forces and receive assistance from partners. The defenders of Mariupol fulfilled all the tasks set by the command in full,” Malyar said, admitting that the army does not “have the opportunity to unblock Azovstal by military means.”
It was unclear how many soldiers remained in the steelworks, but in a later video statement, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that “we hope that we will be able to save the lives of our guys. Among them are the seriously wounded, they are being provided with medical aid.”
“I want to emphasize: Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive.”
“The operation to rescue the defenders of Mariupol was started by our military and intelligence officers. To bring the boys home, the work continues, and this work needs delicacy. And time,” Zelenskyy said.
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces confirmed the evacuations in a Facebook post and said that “the Higher Military Command was ordered to commanders of units based on Azovstal to save the lives of personnel.”
“The operation to rescue blocked in the territory of the Ukrainian defenders factory continues,” it added.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereschuk said last week that between 500 and 600 people were inside the steelworks, but that the parties were negotiating the evacuation of the “severely wounded,” which she estimated at 38 people. EFE