Watch: Ukraine Quits Fighting For Mariupol

By Pamela Glass | Friday, 20 May 2022 12:00
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The courageous last defenders of Mariupol should be given the death penalty, a Russian MP has said today in a gruesome threat published just hours after they surrendered the Azovstal steel plant.

Leonid Slutsky, a prominent senior politician in Russia’s Liberal Democratic Party, called the Azov battalion fighters - which was established by neo-Nazis but now denies links to the far-Right - “animals in human form” and said they “do not deserve to live after the monstrous crimes against humanity that they have committed.”

He made the remark during a debate in Moscow’s parliament on whether to outlaw exchanging any of the Azov soldiers for seizing Russians. Kyiv says the soldiers agreed to lay down their weapons after 82 days under siege on the premise that they would be traded back to Ukraine. Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the State Duma, said its members are “Nazis” who should not be included in prisoner exchanges. “They are war criminals and we must do everything to bring them to justice,” he said.

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Approximately 260 Azov battalion soldiers were brought out of the Azovstal steel plant - a sprawling industrial complex at the heart of Mariupol - overnight after surrendering, with the remainder set to be brought out today. Videos from the plant showed dozens of troops filing out to be taken captive by Russia, some carrying wounded comrades.

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They are being taken to two locations. Dozens of wounded are headed to a town called Novoazovsk, around 30 miles east, with the remainder going to Olenivka, 55 miles to the north. Both are under the control of Russian separatist groups. Hanna Malyar, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, says they will then be traded back to Ukraine.

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Denys Prokopenko, Azov commander, disclosed the submission in a video message last night, saying his men had “carried out the order” to hold up Russian forces in the city, which had allowed the Ukrainian army to regroup, train more men and receive weapons from abroad.

Battered, bloody, but unbowed, he said the “entire Mariupol garrison” will now be evacuated from the city “in order to save lives.” President Zelensky delivered a similar message soon afterward, saying: “Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive.”

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Once the departure is complete, it will mean that Mariupol, once a thriving city on the Azov Sea held up by its mayor as a shining example of what was possible as Ukraine pulled away from Russia and drew closer to Europe, will fall into Moscow’s hands.

It will become the largest city to suffer the Russian invasion so far and provide Putin with a badly-needed propaganda win. It will mean a so-called “land corridor” from occupied Donbas to Crimea, viewed as one of the main objectives of the “operation,” will be completed. But it comes at an enormous cost.

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