A symbol of the resilience of Ukrainians: one of the defenders of Azovstal showed what the plant looks like after months of war
Ukrainian troops in Mariupol held the defense at the Azovstal metallurgical plant, where there were about a thousand military personnel and civilians. The Russian army daily bombed and tried to storm this territory, reports with the BBC.
The fighting at Azovstal in devastated Mariupol became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance during the three-month Russian invasion.
Most of the civilians who had taken refuge in the huge Soviet-era factory were evacuated from there in early May. On May 16, the Ukrainian military was evacuated from Azovstal to Russian-controlled territories in order to subsequently exchange prisoners of war.
Shortly before the evacuation, Dmitry Kazatsky, call sign Orest, published new footage of life at Azovstal.
"OK it's all over Now. Thank you for the shelter, Azovstal, the place of my death and my life, military wrote.
In addition, Dmitry Kazatsky asks to distribute the pictures he took while he is in captivity: “By the way, while I am in captivity, I will leave you a photo in the best quality, send them to all journalistic awards and photo contests, if I win something, after the release will be very nice. Thank you all for your support. See you".
Photos of life and death at Azovstal can be viewed here. Carefully! Images contain open wounds and can traumatize the psyche.
BABYLON'13 has published a video taken by Orest on the last day at the besieged plant.
The warrior, who spent 84 days at Azovstal, removed it the day before the captivity and handed it over to documentary filmmakers.
Everyone needs to see these shots.
Since the early days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian military and separatists from the self-proclaimed DPR have focused their main efforts on capturing Mariupol. This city of almost half a million inhabitants is not only an important port on the Sea of Azov, it also has an important political significance.
In May-June 2014, during the anti-terrorist operation of the Ukrainian forces against the separatists, the Ukrainian army and volunteer battalions managed to recapture the city. Since that time, Mariupol, with its two metallurgical giants (the plant named after Ilyich and Azovstal) and one machine-building one (Azovmash), lived a peaceful life and developed.
Already in early March, Russian troops were able to surround Mariupol from all sides and block it from the sea. The defense of the city was held by the forces of Azov, the 36th Marine Brigade, as well as border guards, police officers and employees of the Security Service of Ukraine.
Storming Mariupol, the military of the Russian Federation and supporters of the self-proclaimed DPR by mid-April were able to oust Ukrainian forces from almost all centers of resistance, including from the seaport and the plant named after. Ilyich.
At the same time, the offensive led to the almost complete destruction of the city: according to the Ukrainian authorities, as a result of shelling and bombing, about 90% of the buildings were destroyed, and about 20 thousand civilians were killed.
What is Azovstal
Azovstal is a metallurgical giant with almost 100 years of history. It occupies a vast territory on the left bank of the Kalmius River. The complex is located between the river on one side and the shore of the Sea of Azov on the other. The plant has its own cargo port and an extensive system of underground utilities.
The decision to build the enterprise was made in 1930 by the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the National Economy of the USSR. The advantageous geographical location made it possible to use sea transport for the supply of iron ore to the plant. In 1931, the construction of the first factory buildings and the seaport began. Two years later, Azovstal received the first batch of pig iron.
In the autumn of 1941, when the front line began to approach the city, many technological units were evacuated to the Urals. German troops captured Mariupol on October 8, 1941, and in September 1943, before retreating, the plant was practically destroyed: they blew up the main facilities, in particular, coke batteries, blast furnaces and open-hearth furnaces.
In 1945, production at the plant was resumed. The enterprise actively developed and became one of the leaders in Europe in the production of metallurgical products. In 1996, Azovstal became part of the Metinvest group of companies owned by Ukrainian businessman Rinat Akhmetov. Before the Russian invasion, about 10 thousand people worked here, now the plant is stopped.
The total area of the plant is about 11 square kilometers. For comparison, this is almost twice the area of the city of Borodyanka in the Kyiv region, or 25 times the size of the Vatican.
The shelling of the plant began in mid-March. Representatives of Russia said that there could be "biochemical laboratories" on the territory of Azovstal.
Enver Tskitishvili, General Director of the enterprise, calls it nonsense. “All of our facilities in Mariupol are mothballed in the first week of Russia's invasion of Ukraine,” he said. “The chemical reagents that the metallurgists used in the production process were destroyed on February 25, about which there are all the necessary documents ... There are no secret tunnels with biochemical laboratories at Azovstal.”
The Ukrainian military and hundreds of civilians decided to take refuge on the territory of the plant: the fact is that Azovstal has a system of bomb shelters created back in Soviet times.
Ukrainian marines confirmed that along with the military, civilians were hiding from the bombs on the territory of the plant. “Women, children, including newborns, are hiding in our military bunkers. Mostly relatives of our military, whom the Russians are looking for. Without heat, water, food. Our wounded die every day in unbearable agony, because medicines, disinfectants, and pain relief options have long ended,” Marine commander Major Sergei Volyn said on April 18.
It was impossible to unblock Azovstal by military means
All over the world, actions were held to support the Ukrainian military from Azovstal. The winners of Eurovision-2022, the Ukrainian group Kalush Orchestra, immediately after their performance in the final called for help to Mariupol and the Azovstal plant. With such a request from the stage, the band's frontman Oleg Psyuk addressed. “I'm asking all of you. Please help Ukrainian Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now!” he said in English.
On May 16, Russian media reported that the invaders agreed with the Ukrainian defenders from Azovstal to open a corridor for wounded soldiers in the direction of Novoazovsk (the territory of the “DPR”), reports UNIAN. More than 260 Ukrainian soldiers, including 53 wounded, were taken out of the Azovstal plant and delivered to the territory of the self-proclaimed DPR, reports euronews.
This information was confirmed in Kyiv, but it was clarified that all of them, after providing them with medical assistance, would return home “as part of the exchange procedure.”
At the same time, the number of military personnel remaining at Azovstal is unknown. According to experts, their number can range from several hundred to 1000 people. The Russian media put the number at two thousand.
After the completion of the evacuation, the Ukrainian authorities announced that the mission of the Azov fighters, who held the defense of the plant for 82 days, was completed.
In his overnight address, the Ukrainian president thanked the Red Cross and the UN for facilitating ceasefire negotiations and evacuation. Volodymyr Zelenskyy noted that on this difficult day, as always, the authorities were guided by one principle - Ukraine needs heroes alive.
“Difficult day. But this day, like all the others, is aimed at protecting our country and our people. Thanks to the actions of the Ukrainian military - the Armed Forces of Ukraine, intelligence, as well as the negotiating group, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN, we hope that we will be able to save the lives of our guys. I want to emphasize that Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive. This is our principle. I think that every adequate person will understand these words,” Zelensky said.
Subsequently, the commander of Azov, Denis Prokopenko (Radis), stated that “in order to save lives, the entire Mariupol garrison is fulfilling the approved decision of the high military command and hopes for the support of the Ukrainian people.”
Prokopenko also stressed that none of the weapons will work without professionally trained military personnel, which makes them the most valuable element of the army.
The wounded soldiers from Azovstal were evacuated to the hospital in the occupied Novoazovsk. This was stated in the appeal of Deputy Defense Minister Anna Malyar.
“Together, the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the National Guard, the Border Guard Service launched an operation to rescue the defenders of Mariupol blocked on the territory of the Azovstal plant. On May 16, 53 seriously wounded were evacuated from Azovstal to a medical facility in Novoazovsk to provide medical care," the statement said.
“In order to return them home, an exchange procedure will be carried out. With regard to the defencists who still remain on the territory of Azovstal, rescue measures are being carried out through the joint efforts of the above-mentioned departments,” Malyar explained, adding that it was impossible to unblock Mariupol by military means, so now the main task is to get our military out of there alive.
According to Malyar, another 211 people were delivered to Olenevka through the humanitarian corridor, and an exchange procedure will be carried out to return them home.
“For the defenders who still remain on the territory of Azovstal, rescue measures are being carried out through the joint efforts of the above-mentioned departments,” the deputy minister added.
She stressed that thanks to the defenders of Mariupol, the Ukrainian military received critical time to form reserves, regroup forces and receive assistance from partners.
“The defenders of Mariupol fulfilled all the tasks set by the command in full. Unfortunately, we do not have the opportunity to release Azovstal by military means. The most important common task for all of Ukraine and the whole world is to save the lives of the defenders of Mariupol,” Maliar emphasized.
And on May 25, it became known that the commander of "Azov" Denis Prokopenko "Redis" got in touch with his wife.
The woman claims that the captured soldiers from Azovstal were not subjected to violence by the invaders.
Katerina Prokopenko was able to hear her husband during a short phone call. “He said he was fine and asked how I was,” the woman shared. The connection ended before he could tell more about himself.
It is not known whether Prokopenko could speak freely. The woman added that she has information from other sources regarding the conditions of detention of captured soldiers. The conditions, she said, are "satisfactory." Ukrainians are fed, given water, and at least the prisoners were not subjected to violence before.
Katerina emphasized that the governments of Ukraine and Russia coordinated the phone call of her husband thanks to the mediation of the Red Cross. Prokopenko said that most of the wounded soldiers are in the prison of the occupied Yelenovka, a small group of seriously wounded remains in the hospital in the occupied Novoazovsk.
Kateryna Prokopenko and the wife of another Azov officer, Arseniy Fedosyuk, Yulia, told AP that the agreements between Ukraine and the Russian Federation provide for the proper burial of dead soldiers and certain conditions for prisoners of war, in particular, the ability to call family members. Several families have already received calls from the military over the past two days.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said that the defenders of the city prevented the Russian invaders from quickly seizing Zaporozhye and cordoning off the JFO groups, reports ZN. Thanks to the courage and steadfastness of the Mariupol garrison, 17 enemy battalion groups were held back.
“Holding positions at Azovstal, the Ukrainian defenders did not allow the enemy to transfer a grouping of 17 battalion tactical groups (about 20000 personnel) to other directions. Thus, they prevented the implementation of the plan for the rapid capture of Zaporozhye, the access to the administrative border of the Donetsk and Zaporozhye regions and the creation of conditions for the encirclement of the JFO group, ”the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported.
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The General Staff thanked the separate special forces detachment “Azov”, the 12th brigade of the National Guard of Ukraine, the 36th separate brigade of the marines, border guards, policemen, volunteers and the terrorist defense of Mariupol. It was thanks to them that the enemy forces suffered significant losses of personnel, and also could not advance in strategically important directions. This helped the Ukrainian army to regroup and get the necessary help from partners.
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