Ukraine is in "tough negotiations" to evacuate severely wounded defenders of Mariupol from the Azovstal steelworks, in exchange for captured Russians, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk has said on Telegram messenger on May 12.
Vereshchuk wrote that the statements of some politicians, journalists, and public figures about the talks "not only misinform society, but also harm the negotiation process."
"I implore you," she pleaded.
"This is about people's lives. Refrain from public comments about what you do not know. If all goes well, and we get people out, then do what you want. All I ask for you now is to be responsible and not to interfere."
The official clarified that negotiations are underway on 38 seriously wounded, bedridden soldiers:
"We are working step by step," she explained.
"We will exchange 38 people in grave condition, then we will move on. There are currently no talks on the exchange of 500 or 600 people, as some media sources have claimed."
The day before, Vereshchuk said that Ukraine had offered to exchange severely wounded servicemen from Azovstal for Russian war prisoners, and negotiations were underway.
Russian invaders continue to storm Azovstal steelworks, while the city's defenders hold the line, despite being commpletely encircled, and are even trying to counterattack. After the Russians bombed a field hospital, the number of wounded increased from 170 to 600 people, the Mariupol City Council reported.
Defenders of Mariupol have repeatedly appealed to the world community for help with evacuation from the plant, surrounded by Russian occupiers. They are ready to be evacuated with the support of a third party together with their weapons, provided they can take away the wounded and the bodies of the dead. Defenders ask that an "extraction" procedure be applied to them.
Mariupol has been blockaded by Russian invaders for over two months. The actions of the Russians have resulted in a large-scale humanitarian catastrophe in the city. The invaders have destroyed residential neighborhoods and civilian infrastructure and are blocking humanitarian aid. According to preliminary data, 25,000 people have been killed in Mariupol. 100,000 people are still waiting to be evacuated from the city.
After lengthy talks, the Russian side finally opened a humanitarian corridor from the plant for civilians on May 1.
On May 7, President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that more than 300 civilians had been evacuated from Azovstal, and preparations were underway for the second stage of the evacuation mission, which would rescue the wounded and medics. On May 10, the President said that Russia has not agreed to any of the options offered by Ukraine to save the Ukrainian military in Mariupol.