Ukraine’s ‘Alamo’ Steel Plant, Mariupol Still Won’t Fall to Russians

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Ukraine’s ‘Alamo’ Steel Plant, Mariupol Still Won’t Fall to Russians

elderly woman enters a bunker

An elderly woman enters a bunker in Severodonetsk, in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, on April 13, as Russian troops intensified a campaign to take the strategic port city of Mariupol, part of an anticipated massive onslaught across eastern Ukraine. (Ronaldo Schemidt/Getty Images)

By Solange Reyner    |   Sunday, 24 April 2022 06:03 PM

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Ukrainian defenders are still holding off Russian soldiers in the port city of Mariupol, though tens of thousands of people trapped in the city are in desperate need of assistance, according to news reports.

Ukraine on Saturday said Russian forces tried to storm the Azovstal steel plant housing soldiers and civilians but weren’t successful. The military offensive by Moscow came despite an order by Russian President Vladimir Putin to halt the assault of Azovstal and instead blockade it.

“Despite the fact that today is an important Christian holiday, they bombed the factory all night,” Capt. Svyatoslav Palamar, the deputy commander of the Azov Battalion, told The New York Times.

He also told the Times Ukrainian forces were willing to leave the factory and evacuate the city if they were given safe passage to go.

“We are prepared to leave the city because there is nothing left to defend,” Palamar said. “We consider that we’ve fulfilled our mission. But we will continue to defend it until there is an order to retreat from our military leadership. And if we are going to leave, we are going to leave with our weapons.”

Occupying Mariupol would deprive the Ukrainians of a vital port, free up Russian troops to fight elsewhere and allow Russia to create a land corridor with the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.

Putin last week declared victory in Mariupol, even as his advisers acknowledged that thousands of fighters remain holed up in the plant.

“The work of the armed forces to liberate Mariupol has been a success. Congratulations,” Putin said, addressing Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu during a rare, televised meeting.

But Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said Thursday that his claims were premature.

“They cannot physically take Azovstal, they have understood; they have experienced huge losses there,” he said. “Our defenders are continuing to hold on to it.”

“These preliminary announcements of victories … show that the Russians have become aware of the futility of their latest active operation at this stage of the war,” Arestovych said.

The city is largely destroyed, but the plant, which sits on four square miles and has a sprawling subterranean network, has held up well.

The people inside need help, though.

“It’s in the basement where people just rot. There is no medication,” Maj. Serhiy Volyna of the 36th Separate Marine Brigade told the Washington Post.

He described the situation as “tragic” and “critical,” and he “appealed very strongly” to U.S. President Joe Biden to help save the soldiers and civilians who had “fallen into this trap.”

“We very much hope that President Biden will hear us and help resolve our situation,” Volyna said. “We believe that this is one of the few people who can really influence and solve this situation in a short time.”

“What is happening here is beyond basic human comprehension,” he added.Related Stories:

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