Mariupol: Hundreds of besieged Ukrainian soldiers evacuated

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World

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Ukraine has confirmed that hundreds of its fighters trapped for more than two months in Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks have been evacuated.

Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said 53 badly wounded soldiers were taken to the town of Novoazovsk, held by Russian-backed rebels.

She said another 211 were evacuated using a humanitarian corridor to Olenivka – another rebel-held town.

Russia earlier said a deal had been reached to evacuate the injured troops.

About a dozen buses carrying Ukrainian fighters who were holed up beneath the besieged plant were seen leaving the huge industrial site in the southern port city on Monday evening, Reuters news agency reported.

Russian state-run media outlets also posted footage of what they say were injured Ukrainian soldiers being evacuated from Azovstal.

Ms Maliar said the troops would be exchanged for captured Russian soldiers.

In his video address after midnight local time on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Ukrainian military, intelligence and negotiating teams, as well as the Red Cross and the UN were involved in the evacuation operation.

“Ukraine needs its heroes alive,” he said.

A picture purportedly showing a wounded Ukrainian soldiers from the besieged Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol is transported on a stretcher out of a bus in Novoazovsk, a town held by Russian-backed rebels. Photo: 16 May 2022

Reuters

Hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers – the Azov regiment, the National Guard, police and territorial defence units – as well as a number of civilians have been holed up at the site since advancing Russian troops encircled the southern city in early March.

It was not immediately clear how many people still remain in underground bunkers.

Ms Maliar said Ukraine’s military, intelligence, National Guard and Border Service were “carrying out joint efforts to save” those left behind.

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