Thursday, June 8, 2023

Explainer: who was the last defender of Mariupol?

Ukrainian forces who made a determined last stand in Mariupol The steel mill against Russian troops was a mix of veteran soldiers, border guards, a controversial National Guard regiment and volunteers who took up arms in the weeks before Russia’s invasion.

As Russia announces it has completed its takeover of Mariupol with the surrender of fighter jets The government of Ukraine, who acted as the last obstacle, did not confirm the city’s fall. Earlier in the week, Ukrainian officials said that its fighters at the Azovstal steel plant had completed their mission and were being evacuated, describing them as heroes who had accomplished a difficult task.,

Here’s a look at these Ukrainian forces who were taken prisoner by the Russians as they left the plant, and what they achieved:

Who were the defenders of Mariupol?

Russia’s defense ministry said a total of 2,439 Ukrainian fighters from the steelworks had surrendered since Monday, including more than 500 on Friday, according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

Fighters living in Azovstal for the nearly three-month siege of Mariupol with Ukrainian civilians seeking protection According to Ukrainian officials, the plant’s underground bunkers and tunnels came from a variety of different military and law enforcement units.

Azov Regiment, which is part of the National Guard of Ukraine; The 36th Special Marine Brigade of the Naval Forces of Ukraine and the 12th Brigade of the National Guard. Border guards, police officers and territorial defense squads formed shortly before the war supplemented their ranks.

Most of these forces were deployed to defend Mariupol., at the beginning of the Russian invasion, home to a state-located port. The Marines of the 36th Brigade held the harbor and another large plant at Mariupol for over a month, until they ran out of supplies and ammunition.

They moved to the Azovstal Steel Mill to join the Azov Regiment, a National Guard unit with far-reaching roots, and some of them were captured by the Russians.

Why does Russia call them ‘nationalists’?

Announcing Azovstal’s seizure, the Russian Defense Ministry’s chief spokesman referred to the fighters of the Azov regiment as Nazis and said that their commander was taken in an armored vehicle because local residents asked him “for many atrocities”. “There was supposed hatred.

There has been no evidence of the regiment mistreating Ukrainian civilians, hundreds of whom took underground shelter with the fighters. The regiment released several videos taken inside Azovstal showing their members interacting with civilians and giving sweets to children.

Russian authorities and state media repeatedly made negative statements about the Azov regiment.

The National Guard unit evolved from a group called the Azov Battalion, formed in 2014 as one of several volunteer brigades to augment Ukraine’s weak and questionable-led forces in the fight against Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Got up for

The conflict erupted after massive protests over the ouster of Ukraine’s Kremlin-leaning president.

The Azov Battalion attracted some of its early fighters from far-right circles and was criticized for some of its tactics. Its current members rejected the charges of nationalism and fundamentalism. The deputy commander of the regiment, Svyatoslav Palmar, said in a recent interview with Steel Mill that he preferred the word “patriotism”.

What did the defenders do?

As Mariupol became a symbol of Ukrainian suffering and resistance after Russia invaded their country, Ukrainian officials repeatedly emphasized the role of fighters in Azovstal. Played in defending the city and stopping Russian progress elsewhere.

Mariupol mayor Vadim Boychenko said: “Ukrainian troops in Mariupol have already pulled over the elite forces of the Russian army and slowed Russian advances in the southeast.”

After the plant’s defenders were instructed to end their fighting, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the move was appropriate and humane because “Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes to survive. This is our principle.”

The ruined seaside town and outgunned and outmaneuvered Ukrainian fighters, whose persistence frustrated Russia’s objective of capturing Mariupol, are now irrevocably inscribed in Ukrainian history, regardless of the outcome of the war.

Mariupol’s defense “will go down in history as the Thermopylae of the 21st century,” said an adviser to the President of Ukraine, Mykhailo Podolik, as the fighters began to leave the plant. “The Azovstal defenders thwarted the enemy’s plans to capture eastern Ukraine, drove out huge enemy forces, and changed the course of the war.”

Thermopylae is widely regarded as one of the most spectacular defeats in history, in which 300 Spartans held off a much larger Persian army in 480 BC before finally succumbing to it. They died for one person including their king.


Follow Associated Press’s coverage of the war in Ukraine:


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