Last week there were various media reports(including our own) on Russian claims that 1,000 members of Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade had surrendered to the Russians. Some numbers went as high as 4,000. It now appears the Russian claims were propaganda based on a relatively small number of troops (around 150) captured during the fighting.
No proof of mass surrender exists. Indeed, if it happened, you would have seen hundreds of Ukrainian troops paraded around on Russian state TV. That was never the case.
The truth is that, as I write this, brave fighters in Mariupol are fending off the Russians and keeping control of their city despite all odds. An officer of the 36th Marine Brigade managed to get the following statement out to the world regarding what happened to his men:
“I can’t give you all the details, but I can say that right now we have joined the “Azov” Regiment. Several hundred marines managed to escape, including the wounded.”
This was reiterated by a report from Олексій Арестович (an advisor to President Zelensky):
“1. Azov received a significant reinforcement.
2. The 36th brigade avoided a split in pieces and received additional serious opportunities, actually found a second chance.
3. The city’s defenders, now together, have seriously strengthened their defense district.
In general, the city’s defense system has increased and strengthened. This is what happens when officers don’t lose their minds, but maintain control of the troops firmly.”
The Russian Defense Ministry had reported that over 1,000 members of Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade have “voluntarily laid down their arms” near the city’s Ilyich iron and steelworks.
Video Evidence That Ukrainian Troops Continue to Fight
"The #Azov Regiment, #KORD Special Forces, National Guard, Marine Corps, the Marine Guard, the National Police and other departments are still on guard in Ukrainian #Mariupol, without panic and tears. Together we will stand! Mariupol will survive!"
— Canadian Ukrainian Volunteer 🇺🇦🇨🇦✊🏻 (@CanadianUkrain1) April 12, 2022
Content credit to Twitter and @CanadianUkrain1
Russian media announced on March 31st that Lieutenant Svyatoslav Palamar was killed in Mariupol, but here is a moving Twitter message from him from the 11th of April.
— mottomoot (@mottomoot) April 11, 2022
Content credit to Twitter and @mottomoot
News From the Inside
It took a bit of digging, but the following is straight out of Ukrayinska Pravda, A Ukrainian online newspaper published mainly in Ukrainian.
“An adviser to the head of the Ukrainian Presidential Office confirmed on 13 April that units of the 36th Marine Brigade in Mariupol had made a difficult and very risky manoeuvre to link up with the Azov regiment, which had professionally secured the breakthrough. No data on possible losses were given by Arestovych.
According to Arestovych: “Azov has received substantial reinforcements. The 36th Brigade has avoided being defeated by troop detachments and gained additional major opportunities, in fact getting a second chance. The defenders of the city have now jointly reinforced their defence area substantially. Overall, the city’s (Mariupol’s) defence system has grown and strengthened.”
Details: At the same time, according to Novynarnia, some Marines have been captured, and there are those whose fate remains unclear.”
The Current Situation
Security experts say it is difficult to say how long the remaining Ukrainian fighters can hold off the Russian advances and attempts to occupy the entire city of Mariupol. Note that several fighters are known to be holed up in a maze of underground tunnels under a major steel factory there.
The security source says:
“Mariupol is very important to Putin because after a victory there (and the surrender of Azov-troops) he can claim that the ‘denazification’ process is successful.”
The Azov Regiment has in the past been accused of harboring neo-Nazi beliefs.
On Wednesday, an assistant to the mayor of Mariupol said the Russians plan to celebrate victory in their city on May 9th, the date Moscow marks victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, with an annual parade on Red Square.
Oleh Zhdanov, an independent military expert, has a dire take on the situation:
“How many supplies the defenders have and how long they can hold on is anyone’s guess. But they have no other way out. They’re surrounded on all sides, they have to stand till the end. If they give in, they will not be spared.”
If the Russians were to take over the Azovstal industrial district, where the Marines and members of the Azov Regiment are supposedly located, they would be in complete control of Mariupol. This would allow them unfettered access between Russian-held areas in the east and west that they could use to transport troops, military equipment, and supplies easily.
If Mariupol fell, it would be the first major city to do so since the Russians invaded Ukraine on February 24th.
As usual, SOFREP will keep you up to date on the latest in Ukraine.