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16 May, 11:09 AM

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Mustafa Dzhemilev on why rescuing the Ukrainian defenders of Azovstal is difficult

As the siege of the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol drags on, Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev tells NV about how the Ukrainian defenders of the city could be saved.

Dzhemilev, the leader of the Crimean Tatars and a member of the Ukrainian parliament, says rescuing the defenders besieged in the city of Mariupol in the south-east of Ukraine by means of a military operation is impossible.

“What I know is that if you send troops there to break the blockade, this will lead to enormous amounts of dead and wounded, because the Russians have firm control over the city,” Dzhemilev told NV Radio.

“And if you relocate troops from other areas – those (areas) might be attacked by the Russians. Some experts say that breaking the siege of Mariupol through a military operation could lead to 10,000 people being killed.”

Dzhemilev said that Ibrahim Kalin, the press secretary of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had talked with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoiygu before May 9.

At that time, Shoigyu refused to allow the evacuation of the Mariupol defenders. He also refused to conduct an exchange, letting the Mariupol defenders go free in return for the release of Russian captives.

“Ibrahim Kalin retained his optimism – he said they would continue the discussions…” Dzhemilev said.

“Now that May 9 is behind us, I think we will have more chances… Of course, we’ll keep putting pressure, we will mobilize the whole of humanity, but at the end of the day it all depends on that idiot – Putin.”

The Ukrainian defenders of Mariupol have been besieged by Russian forces for almost two months on the territory of Azovstal, a steel plant owned by Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man. At the ruined plant some 600 Ukrainian troops are wounded and need medical assistance.

The Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol have several times asked for extraction – possibly to Turkey.

On April 30, Serhiy Volynsky, the commander of 36th marine infantry brigade, appealed to Erdogan to organize the evacuation of Mariupol’s Ukrainian defenders to Turkey.

On April 20, Svyatoslav Palamar, the deputy head of the Azov Regiment of the National Guard of Ukraine, published a video in which he said that Azovstal’s defenders would be ready to evacuate from Mariupol if a third party comes in as an intermediary. Palamar said the Ukrainian troops stuck in Mariupol would prefer to be evacuated with their guns, and with an opportunity to take care of their wounded and properly bury their dead on territory not controlled by Russia.

According to Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, almost 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers are besieged in the Azovstal plant in Mariupol.

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