Last night alone, the Russians carried out at least 50 artillery strikes against the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol – the heavily defended stronghold where civilians and the last Ukrainian defenders are holding out.
In an interview with NV Radio, deputy Azov commander Svyatoslav Palamar said the fighters lost count of Russian overnight strikes, which were followed by more bombardments in the morning.
NV: We’re all closely following the developments at Azovstal. Do you have a line of communication with central command? How do they respond to your requests?
Palamar: We’re in communication with (Ukrainian) government, and with military command. All they tell us is: “Stay strong guys, (we are) doing everything we can to get you out of there.” Something like that.
NV: How did last night go?
Palamar: The night before last was very tough, very hot. (The Russians) hit a bunker with civilians. One woman was wounded, along with another man. We had to dig people from underneath the rubble.
Last night there was a naval artillery cannonade. We counted over 50 strikes on the plant, losing count afterwards. Land-based artillery and tanks were also engaged.
The worst thing is that they were explicitly targeting our field hospital, full of our wounded and medics. We have wounded, they all sustained concussions. The operation room, where the most difficult surgeries were performed, collapsed.
It’s a breach of the Geneva Convention: 1949 Article 19 clearly states that any permanent of mobile medical facilities are off-limits for all sides. These are clear examples of breaching all international norms (of war). Russians don’t give a damn about the Geneva Conventions and other such things, they clearly only care what their propaganda will feed their cattle with, that’s it.
NV: How many wounded and civilians are at Azovstal?
Palamar: There are over 500 wounded here in total. Hundreds of civilians. We don’t have accurate numbers, since the underground complex is vast, and we don’t cover all of it.
We can’t live in the rooms with civilians, otherwise we’ll hear “that was a military target, it’s your own fault.” We don’t want to put civilians at risk. One of the bunkers houses around 80 people, with 17 children, ages from four months to 16 years. Another bunker with civilians has 100 people in it. Other cellars and bunkers have fewer people, but it’s hard to say how many of them there are in total.
During the night and morning, we were constantly shelled.
NV: Are the Russians attempting to assault Azovstal? Right after the Russian dictator Putin called off the assaults, the bombings commenced.
Palamar: Fierce assaults began right after he said that. Yesterday, we were under an even more intensive artillery fire and bombing runs. Occasionally, they attempt these massive assaults; they were quiet for two days, in a manner of speaking. Nevertheless, the machine gun, grenade and tank fire coming from the Russians is unceasing.
NV: There is considerable international diplomatic effort to evacuate soldiers and civilians from Azovstal. The UN secretary general, the Turkish president, among others, are all trying to do something in that regard. But Putin doesn’t budge. What do you think of these efforts?
Palamar: We hope they can help. We hope they will be able to evacuate the civilians from Azovstal.