Russia claims that 1,000 Ukrainian marines surrendered in the southern port city of Mariupol a few hours ago. However, Ukraine insists that they are still currently fighting despite quickly running out of ammunition.

The Russians have advanced and taken control of a majority of Mariupol despite strong resistance from the Ukrainian forces. The Ukrainians are still defending the small pockets of land they have left, but military analysts(including SOFREP) have predicted that the city might fall completely to Russia in a matter of a few days unless its defenders are resupplied or relieved.

On Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that some 1,026 soldiers and 162 officers belonging to the Ukrainian 36th Marine Brigade had surrendered to them. However, the Ukrainian Government had not confirmed this and said they had no news of any surrender. Furthermore, Mariupol Deputy Mayor Serhiy Orlov said their troops were still fighting.

These marines were defending the Azovstal Industrial District as it is one of the few places still in Ukrainian control. In recent days, the district and its surrounding areas were reported to be the subject of heavy fighting. In the same timeframe, the 36th Marine Brigade was said to run out of ammunition.

Battle maps published online indicate that there are three areas not occupied by Russian forces: the Azovmash factory, the Azovstal iron and steelworks factory, and the port area south of the maternity area that was bombed by the Russians. All three locations are surrounded by Russian forces who have either complete control or are partially advancing. There is no clear path out of the city as all three locations have their backs against either the Sea of Azov or advancing Russian forces.

This was also the problem during the implementation of so-called agreed-upon humanitarian corridors, where some instances saw them being very successful in evacuating civilians. But in most cases, the Russians went back on their word and continued to shell both civilians and Ukrainian forces, much to the outrage of the entire world.

The AzovStal Steel Plant where Ukrainians are said to be hiding. It is said to be one of the last pockets of Mariupol that the Russians haven't taken yet (Illia Ponomarenko). Source: https://twitter.com/IAPonomarenko/status/1513555971112681480
The AzovStal Steel Plant is where Ukrainians are said to be hiding. It is said to be one of the last pockets of Mariupol that the Russians haven’t taken yet. (Illia Ponomarenko/Twitter)

The southern port city of Mariupol has been one of the cities that have been extensively bombed throughout Russia’s invasion campaign. It is believed that taking control over the city of Mariupol has been one of the major objectives of the Russian forces. Having control of the city would give them a land bridge connecting mainland Russia to Crimea, which they had annexed in 2014.

By obtaining the port city, Russia would obtain partial success. It would end up with more or less full control of Ukraine’s Black Sea coastline. Controlling the coastline would prevent Ukraine from shipping and importing goods. This would severely hamper Ukraine’s economic standing and ability to generate economic gains once the war ends or a ceasefire is agreed upon. Think of it as the Russian retaliation for the sanctions it received from the West during the past month.

In their quest to control the city, 90% of Mariupol’s infrastructure has now been destroyed, with thousands of civilians still in the city. If successful, the Russians can push further west to take Odesa to obtain the remaining coastline. They may also push north-west towards the city of Dnipro and try to push the Ukrainians out with forces from the north and east. The troops from the east can link with forces from Mariupol as well, teaming up with pro-Russian separatists to push toward the Dnieper River.

With the majority of Mariupol lost to Russians, Ukraine’s economy would take a further hit as it is home not just to ports but also to major iron and steelworks. Before the war, Mariupol was an export hub for steel, corn, and coal. Without ports and their steel industry working for them, they lose a significant portion of their economic drivers.

This also gives the Russians a prime propaganda opportunity as the Azov Brigade operates in the area, a group known for its far-right views. This is also one of the groups Russia used as the pretext for their invasion, claiming that Ukraine was filled with neo-Nazis. If they are captured, Russians can create propaganda in their state media, further portraying Ukrainians as Nazis when the Azov battalion represents just a very small number of Ukrainians.

Ukrainian city of Mariupol decimated by Russian bombardments taken March 22 (Maxar Technologies via Space.com). Source: https://www.space.com/russia-ukraine-invasion-mariupol-damage-satellite-photos
The Ukrainian city of Mariupol was decimated by Russian bombardments taken March 22 (Maxar Technologies via Space.com)

Currently, Ukrainian Adviser to the Head of the Office of the President Alexei Arestovich claimed that units of the 36th Marine Brigade had broken through to the Azov regiment and helped the Azov repel Russian attacks and evaded death or capture.

“In Mariupol, units of the 36th Marine Brigade, as a result of a complex and very risky maneuver, broke into contact with the Azov regiment, which professionally provided this event,” Arestovich said.

“The defenders of the city, now together, have seriously strengthened their area of defense. In general, the city’s defense system has grown and strengthened,” he added.

According to a report by the Kyiv Post, the 36th Marine Brigade had attempted a breakout from the Russian encirclement. The breakout left the National Guard Azov Regiment to continue the fight in the factory area. The breakout through Russian-controlled areas was led by Brigade Commander Volodymyr Baranyuk, pushing north, then breaking up into smaller groups when the Russians spotted them.

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As stated by Arestovich, the members of the 36th Marines were able to link up with the Azov regiment at the Azovstal steel mill. It is not clear if Baranyuk survived the breakout, but it is possible that some members had been captured or killed during their operation.

Following this news Commander of the Azov Regiment and the Commander of the 36th Marines Brigade released a joint statement about the operation.

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