More than 50 heavily wounded Ukrainian soldiers evacuated from AzovStal, Ukraine hopes to swap them soon

17 May, 12:24 AM
Wounded Ukrainian soldiers in a bus, before they were taken to Novoazovsk, in Russian-occupied Donetsk Oblast

Wounded Ukrainian soldiers in a bus, before they were taken to Novoazovsk, in Russian-occupied Donetsk Oblast

Ukrainian forces started a rescue operation from Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol, the last Ukrainian stronghold. 53 heavily wounded soldiers were taken to Novoazovsk, an occupied town in Donetsk Oblast.

Another 200 soldiers from AzovStal were taken to Olenivka, another occupied settlement in Donetsk Oblast, Deputy Defense Minister of Ukraine Hanna Maliar has said in a statement. "In order to return them home we will conduct a prisoners' swap," Maliar said.

As for the Ukrainian defenders, who still remain trapped in AzovStal, Ukrainian law enforcement and intelligence agencies are working on their rescue. 

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"Thanks to Mariupol defenders, we got critically important time to regroup, form reserves, and get help from Western partners," Maliar said. 

"Mariupol defenders have fulfilled all orders of the high commanders. We can't unblock Mariupol using military force. But we have to save the lives of Mariupol defenders."

Earlier Denys Prokopenko, the commander of the Azov Regiment said in a video statement that the defenders of Mariupol obeyed the order, despite all the difficulties, and delayed the overwhelming forces of the enemy for 82 days.

The defenders reminded that they allowed the Ukrainian army to regroup, train more personnel and receive a large number of weapons from international partners.

"No weapon will work without professionally trained servicemen, which makes them the most valuable element of the army," Prokopenko said.  "To save lives, the entire Mariupol garrison fulfilled the Supreme Military Command decision and hopes for the support of the Ukrainian people," he added.

More than 1000 Ukrainian defenders had been fighting the Russian invaders in Mariupol, a destroyed port city mostly occupied by Russia. For months they were calling the world to help evacuate civilians first and then wounded soldiers. 

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