Ukrainian soldiers surrender near Donetsk

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The commander of Ukraine’s Azov Regiment said in a video statement published on Friday that civilians and heavily wounded Ukrainian fighters had been evacuated from the Azovstal steelworks in the devastated city of Mariupol.

“We have constantly emphasised the three most important conditions for us: civilians, wounded and dead,” Denys Prokopenko, the commander, said in the video shared by the Azov Regiment on the Telegram messaging service.

“The civilians have been evacuated. The heavily wounded received the necessary assistance and they were evacuated, to be later exchanged and delivered to territory controlled by Ukraine,” Prokopenko said.

Prokopenko said the process of removing the dead from the Azovstal plant, the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance against Russian forces in Mariupol, was still under way.

“I hope that in the near future, relatives and Ukraine will be able to bury their soldiers with honor,” he said.

Ukraine soldiers surrender

Meanwhile, Ukrainian soldiers, who surrendered at the besieged were taken by buses escorted by Russia-backed forces to a former penal colony in the Russian-controlled town of Olenivka near Donetsk.

Hundreds of Ukrainian fighters have surrendered from the labyrinth of bunkers and tunnels below the Azovstal plant, though Moscow and Kyiv have given different estimates on numbers.

Russia says that up to 2 000 fighters from Azovstal had so far surrendered. It was unclear how many fighters remained inside. Ukrainian officials have declined to comment, saying it could endanger rescue efforts.

Russia needs Mariupol, one of Ukraine’s main seaports, to cement its control of land it has seized along the coast, reaching all the way west to annexed Crimea.