SOFREP’s Guy McCardle had recently reported on evacuations being underway at Mariupol’s Azovstal Steel Plant complex after months of heavy bombing from the Russian forces. Today, over 150 women and children who hid in underground bunkers have successfully reached safety in Zaporizhzhia as per the ICRC. According to reports, it was the first time the civilians saw the light in 2 months.
Alternatively, a different number was reported by the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Ukraine Osnat Lubrani, who said that 101 women, men, children, and older people arrived at Zaporizhzhia some 140 miles northwest of Mariupol. According to reports, 58 people joined the convoy in a town located on the outskirts of Mariupol, with some of the evacuees deciding not to travel to Zaporizhzhia.
When the civilians from Mariupol arrived, they were welcomed with stretchers and wheelchairs for those who needed immediate medical attention, as well as shoes, piles of toys, and food, much to the enjoyment of the children.
This is how Mariupol civilians emerged from under the Azovstal steel works to flee the ruined city in UN-led evacuation. 100+ women and children were evacuated and are expected to reach Ukraine-controlled Zaporizhia tomorrow morning. Video by MP David Arakhamia via Azov regiment pic.twitter.com/JSY5GCgsWu
— Myroslava Petsa (@myroslavapetsa) May 1, 2022
The first 150 people came to #Zaporizhzhia from #Azovstal, #Mariupol.
Once we will write a book about the negotiations on their release.
Meanwhile, continuing to work 24/7 to release every citizen who is still in Azovstal and Mariupol. And in other occupied territories. pic.twitter.com/YGVtIB859F
— Rustem Umerov (@rustem_umerov) May 3, 2022
Russian Forces Storm the Plant
In what seemed to be one of the rarest instances where diplomacy actually worked, the Russians are now storming the Azovstal iron and steelworks complex after the initial transfer of civilians was completed. Initial shelling was reported just after international negotiators left with the evacuees.
With a low supply of food, water, and ammunition, this is the Russians’ latest attempt to fully control Mariupol, which had been repelling Russian attacks since the start of the invasion.
Through a Telegram video, Captain Sviatoslav Palamar from the Azov Regiment reported that the Russian forces were pounding the steelworks complex yet again with naval and barrel artillery dropped from Russian bomber squads. Russia has seemingly learned from its mistakes during the first portion of its invasion as the Russian forces were reported to be engaging in actual combined arms warfare to secure the steel plant.
Urgent appeal from Azov Battalion deputy Commander Sviatoslav "Kalyna" Palamar regarding the situation at #Azovstal.
Video has English subtitles.
Please share! #SaveMariupol #Mariupol pic.twitter.com/BIyVwAGuF5
— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) May 3, 2022
A video published by ТРУХА English supposedly showing smoke from Azovstal was published. However, the authenticity of the video could not be verified at this time.
Azovstal, now. pic.twitter.com/8rOeEbhRlp
— ТРУХА⚡️English (@TpyxaNews) May 2, 2022
“As of this moment, a powerful assault on the territory of the Azovstal plant is underway with the support of armored vehicles, tanks, attempts to land on boats, and a large number of infantry,” Palamar reported from within Azovstal.
“The enemy is trying to storm the Azovstal plant with significant forces using armored vehicles. Our fighters are repelling all attacks,” Commander of the 12th Operational Brigade of the Ukrainian National Guard Denys Shlega.
The strikes were also confirmed by Ukrainian Presidential Adviser Oleksiy Arestovich, who confirmed that the bombings over the steel plant had resumed.
Prior to the attack, the Russian forces actually announced that they were going to resume the offensive to take Azovstal after the Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Vadim Astafyev said that Ukrainian soldiers had utilized the cease-fire to take new positions in the plant.
“A ceasefire was declared, civilians had to be evacuated from Azovstal territory. Azov and Ukrainian servicemen, who are stationed on the plant, took advantage of it. They came out of the basement, they took up firing positions on the territory and in the factory buildings,” the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said.
“Now units of the Russian army and the Donetsk People’s Republic, using artillery and aviation, are beginning to destroy these firing positions,” he continued.
It is important to note that not all civilians were taken out of the Mariupol steel plant. It was reported that 1,000 civilians were stuck within the steel plant, so with some 100 to 150 evacuated, that still leaves 850 to 900 people left within the complex. According to Palamar, two civilians were killed, and another ten were injured during the resumption of bombings. However, these claims could not be verified.
Russian troops launch ground assault on Azovstal, last Ukrainian fortress in Mariupol, Azov Regiment commander Palamar tells @ukrpravda_news
— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) May 3, 2022
Mariupol is a Ukrainian city that has been bombed since the beginning of the invasion. The Russians have done so because it wants to establish a landbridge from the Russian mainland to Russian-backed Crimea. With the majority of the city already in Russian control, it may very well have accomplished its goal.
However, this does not mean that it is considered a military success. It took roughly three months for the Russian forces to capture one major Ukrainian city. It’s not a secret that they withdrew from their initial goal of capturing Kyiv due to logistical and morale challenges. In the process of their invasion, they managed to fire more than 2,000 missiles into Ukraine and lost over 24,200 troops (Ukrainian estimates), including nine generals in the process. While the Ukrainians did, in fact, lose troops as well, we can say that losing that much of men and only getting one major city is not much of a success.
Mariupol is a city that had been shot to international attention first because of the shelling of a drama theater that was housing evacuees, a maternity hospital, and the supposed hostage-taking held at another Mariupol hospital. While definitely a tragedy to see all of these civilians being killed, Mariupol has now become a symbol of strong resistance for Ukraine as they continue to launch counter-attacks against the Russians, which functioned (and will function) as one of the largest morale boosters not just for the Ukrainian Armed Forces, but also for the Ukrainian people.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces in Mariupol are not expected to surrender as the men inside the facility have sworn to fight and repel the Russian forces for as long as they can.
“We will do everything possible to repel this assault. We call for immediate action to evacuate civilians from the plant’s grounds and transport them safely to Zaporizhzhia and Ukrainian-controlled territory,” Capt. Palamar promised.
“Mariupol is Ukraine,” Palamar stated.