Remaining Soldiers Evacuated from Mariupol As Ukraine Declares End of ‘Combat Mission’

Remaining Soldiers Evacuated from Mariupol As Ukraine Declares End of ‘Combat Mission’

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Ukrainian forces completed their “combat mission” in the besieged city of Mariupol, according to a statement by the country’s military.

Commanders of units stationed at the city’s massive Azovstal steelworks plant have been ordered “to save the lives of their personnel,” the statement by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine also said.

Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar described the evacuation operation in a separate video statement, noting that some Ukrainian forces remain at Azovstal.

"Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive. This is our principle. I think that every adequate person will understand these words," Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said during his nightly address Monday.

Ukraine's military did not reveal the exact number of troops who were evacuated, although it is believed to be between a few hundred to 1,000.

Russia-backed separatists later announced that 256 Ukrainian soldiers "have surrendered," Reuters reported.

"Thanks to the actions of the Ukrainian military - the Armed Forces of Ukraine, intelligence, the negotiating team, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations, we hope that we will be able to save the lives of our guys. Among them are the seriously wounded, they are being provided with medical aid," Zelensky said.

“The 82nd day of our defense is coming to an end. A difficult day. But this day, like all others, is aimed precisely at saving our country and our people,” Zelensky added.

The Russian Defense Ministry had earlier said that a ceasefire had been established to allow the passage of wounded Ukrainian servicemen, according to state news agency RIA Novosti.

Mariupol, a port city on the Sea of Azov, has been the scene of some of the most intense fighting in Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion in late February.

Many civilians have already been evacuated. But Ukrainian fighters in the city had, in April, vowed to “fight until the end,” despite being surrounded, low on ammunition and outnumbered by Russian forces.

Russian TV network RT on Monday showed video of around 10 to 12 buses leaving the steel plant. The buses appeared to be a mixture of hospital and ordinary transport, some marked with a red cross.

The first stage of surrender was completed on Monday – 264 soldiers left Azovstal. There are now 53 wounded servicemen in a hospital in Novoazovsk and 211 soldiers in Yelenovka, both of which are part of the "Donetsk People’s Republic".

Russian sources have estimated that about 2,200 people have been trapped in the basements of the huge Azovstal complex. The site is 11 square kilometers long and its subterranean sections are designed to withstand a nuclear attack.

According to the deputy minister of defense of Ukraine, Anna Malyar, and the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, those who surrender will be exchanged for Russian prisoners of war taken captive by Kiev. However, the terms of the exchange have not yet been decided.

Moscow has not yet made any public statements about an exchange. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian side has tried to avoid the use of the expression ‘surrender’.

After the last Ukrainian soldier leaves Azovstal, the battle for Mariupol will be effectively over and Russia will have gained total control of the strategically vital city.

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