No surrender for the Ukrainians in Mariupol. The last Ukrainian fighters in the besieged city of Mariupol have rejected the Russian forces’ offer to surrender and have decided to fight to the last man. It is no secret that the southern port city of Mariupol is one of the areas in Ukraine that has suffered the most destruction, with the Russians destroying 90% of the infrastructure with thousands of civilians killed in the process.

The Russians gave the Ukrainians an ultimatum last Sunday to quit the fight, lay down their weapons, vacate their positions in the heavily fortified Azovstal steelworks located near the Sea of Azov, and come out to save their own lives. This comes after the Russians claim that some 1,000 members of the Ukrainian 36th Marine Brigade had surrendered to them last week.

“Taking into account the catastrophic situation that has developed at the Azovstal metallurgical plant, as well as being guided by purely humane principles, the Russian Armed Forces offer the militants of nationalist battalions and foreign mercenaries from 06:00 (Moscow time) on April 17, 2022, to stop any hostilities and lay down their arms,” the Russian Defense Ministry said through a statement.

Azov Regiment's commander Denys Prokopenko (left) and Serhii Volyna (right) commander of the 36th Marine Brigade in Mariupol (Illia Ponomarenko). Source: https://twitter.com/IAPonomarenko/status/1514326744140062728
Azov Regiment’s commander Denys Prokopenko (left) and Serhii Volyna (right) commander of the 36th Marine Brigade in Mariupol (Illia Ponomarenko/Twitter)

The deadline has since passed without compliance from the Ukrainians holed up inside the steel mill, which leaves them to fight the incoming Russian onslaught from all directions. The Russian defense ministry had previously said that any signs of resistance from the Ukrainian forces would be met with heavy firepower, and “all of them will be eliminated.”

“Their only chance to save their lives is to voluntarily lay down their arms and surrender,” the Russian Defense Ministry reiterated.

The Azovstal steel plant is known to be one of the last positions the Ukrainians have held in the pulverized Mariupol. It’s an industrial area that is more than 4.25 square miles with a multitude of buildings to help the Ukrainians hide and launch some form of counter-offensive if they wish to do so. The steel mill is said to be held by the Ukrainian 36th Marine Brigade, members of the Azov Regiment, and an unknown number of soldiers from motorized brigades.

“The city still has not fallen,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said. “There’s still our military forces, our soldiers,” referring to those holding their positions in the steel plant. “They will fight to the end.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had been very vocal about the status of the Mariupol soldiers left in the steel plant. Yesterday, he warned that the peace talks with Russia would be halted if the Ukrainian soldiers in the steel mill were killed by Russian forces.

“I want to say that the elimination of our army, our guys, will put an end to all negotiations,” the Ukrainian President said. “That will be an impasse as we don’t negotiate neither our territories nor our people.”

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According to a video released by the Azov Regiment’s commander Denys Prokopenko last week, they chose to stay behind because retreating and surrendering was “choosing the path of shame” and claimed that “real men who chose the path of war” were still adamant on defending what is left of the city. During this video, he sat beside Serhii Volyna, commander of the 36th Marine Brigade, a unit that managed to link up with the Azov Regiment to make their last stand.

Last reports in Mariupol state that the Ukrainians have since launched a counterattack against the Russian forces who have surrounded them.

“The defence [sic] of Mariupol continues. Despite the overwhelming forces of the enemy, the Azov Regiment fighters launch [a] counter-attack,” a Twitter account linked to the Azov stated.

Videos of the counterattack circulating on the internet show that the remaining Ukrainians have taken on the Russians in the streets, slowly moving through portions of the city and ambushing them. Another video shows a Ukrainian soldier being a few feet away from unsuspecting Russians in what seems to be an unarmored vehicle. He goes on to throw a grenade directly onto the Russian soldiers.

The Ukrainians have also made extremely good use of the underground tunnels in the steel plant to effectively navigate their way around Russians.

“They have transformed the thick concrete tunnels criss-crossing the entire enclave into a fortress,” a Ukrainian army colonel said. “That’s where they are resting, where they can move without risk, and from there, they can launch attacks on the troops surrounding them.”

The founder of the Azov, Andriy Biletsky, has said that about 2,000 Ukrainian troops remain in the city, most of which come from the Azov Regiment, the 36th Marine Brigade, some members of the 56th Infantry Brigade, and a number of volunteer fighters.

“As for how they survive, Mariupol is a big city, and there are a large number of big buildings made of reinforced concrete and steel and a large number of underground passages,” he told the Financial Times.

If the Ukrainians cannot hold on to Mariupol, the Russians will take control of the first major Ukrainian city ever since the war started. It also means they can establish the long-coveted land bridge connecting Russian-controlled Crimea and mainland Russia, effectively cutting off the Ukrainians from a large portion of their coastline.

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