More than 260 people have been rescued from the besieged Azovstal plant — including 53 seriously wounded, Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said.
In a video statement issued late Monday, Malyar said that together, the Ministry of Defense, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the National Guard, and the Border Guard Service launched an operation to rescue defenders of Mariupol blocked on the territory of the Azovstal plant.
She said that “53 seriously injured people were evacuated from Azovstal to a medical facility in Novoazovsk [in territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic] for medical care.”
“Another 211 people were taken to Olenivka through the humanitarian corridor. An exchange procedure will be carried out to return them home.”
Olenivka is a town near Donetsk on the front lines of the current fighting, but in Russian-occupied territory.
Malyar made it clear that some defenders remain at Azovstal.
“As for the defenders who still remain on the territory of Azovstal, rescue efforts are being carried out by the joint efforts of the above-mentioned agencies,” she said.
She added, “Thanks to the defenders of Mariupol, we have gained critical time to form reserves, regroup forces and receive assistance from partners. The defenders of Mariupol fulfilled all the tasks set by the command in full.”
“Unfortunately, we do not have the opportunity to unblock Azovstal by military means. The most important common task of all Ukraine and the whole world is to save the lives of the defenders of Mariupol,” Malyar said.
A short time after Malyar’s statement was released, President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the situation at Azovstal, and also implied that some Ukrainians remained inside the plant.
“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 injured. They are being treated. I want to emphasize that Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive. This is our principle.”
“The work continues to bring the boys home, and this work needs delicacy. And time.”