Who are the defenders of Mariupol and what have they achieved? – GV wire
The Ukrainian forces who made a determined last stand at a Mariupol steelworks against Russian troops were a mix of veteran soldiers, border guards, a controversial National Guard regiment and volunteers who took up arms in the weeks before the Russian invasion.
As Ukraine struggles to evacuate the factory’s last fighters – in what Russia calls a mass surrender – it portrays them as heroes who have completed their grueling task.
Here is an overview of these Ukrainian forces and what they have achieved:
Who are the defenders of Mariupol?
According to Ukrainian officials, the fighters still resisting in Azovstal come from various military and law enforcement units.
There is the Azov regiment, which is part of the Ukrainian national guard; the 36th Special Marine Brigade of the Ukrainian Naval Forces; the 12th National Guard Brigade; there are also the border guards, the police and the territorial defense squads formed shortly before the war from those who knew how to shoot a weapon.
These forces had been defending Mariupol since the start of the Russian invasion. Marines from the 36th Brigade had held the city’s port and another large factory at Mariupol for over a month until they ran out of supplies and ammunition.
They moved to the Azovstal Steelworks to join the Azov Regiment, a National Guard unit with far-right roots, and some of them were captured by the Russians.
The total number of fighters hidden in the factory’s maze of tunnels and bunkers spread over around 4 square miles at the height of the siege was unclear, although Russia claimed there were more than 2. 000.
Why does Russia call them nationalists?
Russian officials and state media dispute the Azov regiment. It derives from a group called the Azov Battalion, formed in 2014 as one of several volunteer brigades that rose up to bolster Ukraine’s underfunded and questionably led military in the fight against government-backed separatists. Russia in eastern Ukraine.
That conflict erupted after massive protests ousted Ukraine’s Kremlin-leaning president from office.
The Azov Battalion drew its earliest fighters from far-right circles and drew criticism for its tactics.
Azov fighters reject accusations of nationalism and radicalism. Sviatoslav Palamar, the regiment’s deputy commander who is currently in Azovstal, said in a recent interview that he preferred the term “patriotism.”
What have the defenders achieved?
Ukrainian officials have repeatedly emphasized the role Azovstal fighters played in the defense of Mariupol.
“The defenders of Mariupol have fully accomplished all the missions assigned by the commanders.” — Hanna Maliar, Deputy Defense Minister, Ukraine
“Ukrainian troops in Mariupol have already accomplished a feat, drawing in the elite forces of the Russian army and significantly slowing down the Russian advance in the southeast,” Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko said.
“Thanks to the defenders of Mariupol, we have gained extremely important time to form reserves, regroup forces and receive help from our partners,” Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said on Monday. “The defenders of Mariupol have fully accomplished all the missions assigned by the commanders.”
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in turn that if the defenders of the factory put an end to their fight, the decision is fair and humane: “Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes to live. This is our principle.
What’s next for defenders?
Maliar expressed hope on Tuesday that the 264 Ukrainian fighters extracted from the Azovstal steelworks would be exchanged for Russian prisoners of war, despite comments by a senior Russian official who called them “criminals” who must be ” brought to justice”.
She told a Tuesday briefing that Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin’s comment is a political statement, “conceived as internal propaganda, (taking into account) the Russian Federation’s internal political processes. Russia”.
Maliar said that from Ukraine’s perspective, the negotiation process and the rescue operation itself are ongoing.
Earlier on Tuesday, Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Volodin as calling the Azovstal fighters “Nazi criminals” who should be barred from any future exchanges.