This happened last nightMore than 260 injured Ukrainian soldiers have been evacuated from the Azovstal plant in Mariupol. The intention is that they will be exchanged for Russian prisoners of war. And Russian leader Putin is actively interfering in military planning.
According to the Ukrainian Defense Minister Hanna Maliar, a total of 264 (seriously) wounded soldiers are involved. Of these, 53 were taken to Novoazovsk, a city controlled by the Russians. The rest, 211 soldiers, were transported to Olenivka via a humanitarian corridor. Minister Maliar reports that the wounded will be involved in an exchange with Russian soldiers who have been captured at a later stage. It is not known how many soldiers are still in the complex. The last civilians still trapped in the factory were removed from there last week. They are now in territory controlled by the Ukrainian army.
Reuters news agency was the first to report the evacuation of the soldiers last night. Later, images of the injured were also shown on Russian state media. In his daily speech, Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky said last night that the operation also involved the Red Cross and the United Nations. “Ukraine needs its heroes alive,” he said. The injured were taken away in dozens of buses. Russia had previously confirmed that an agreement had been reached on the evacuation. Zelensky warned, however, that the soldiers will not be released immediately. Negotiations on this will be complicated and take time, he said. “We hope we can save the lives of our men. Some of them are seriously injured. They are now getting help.”
According to the defense minister, the soldiers have “completely completed their mission”. However, their position had become untenable, because there was no way they could be relieved. Ukraine’s military leadership calls Mariupol’s defenders ‘heroes of our time’. In a statement, she said their resistance enabled the successful defense of the capital Kiev: “By not giving up their positions in Azovstal, the enemy was unable to move its troops (some 20,000 soldiers) to other areas. This also prevents the rapid intake of Zaporizhzhya.”
The now famous Azov regiment, which fought hard in Mariupol, seems to have confirmed its intention to stop fighting. Their commander Denis Prokopenko said saving as many of his men’s lives as possible is now the priority.
The soldiers and civilians have been detained for more than two months in the immense factory complex in the port city. Mariupol during that time has become an important symbol of the Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion, which began on February 24. The city is strategically located between the south and the east of Ukraine, both areas that were in the crosshairs of the Russians. The capture of Mariupol would create a corridor in which Russian troops could move freely.
The city itself has since been destroyed by the Russians, with as low points attacks on a hospital and a theater where hundreds of refugees had sought refuge. The very last piece of Mariupol, the Azovstal factory, has been the subject of fierce fighting since the beginning of the war. The Russian attacks were so difficult that Putin even stopped them for a while, because he feared that too many of his soldiers would be killed. It is a large complex, where thousands of soldiers and civilians hid in underground corridors (built against a nuclear attack) and destroyed buildings. The situation became increasingly dire due to shortages of food, drink and ammunition. Several evacuation attempts have previously failed.
According to Western intelligence sources, Vladimir Putin is heavily involved in his army’s military strategy. He is said to have been involved in the war at the level of ‘a colonel or a brigadier general’. This means that he himself makes operational and tactical decisions.
Putin would thus be involved in troop movements in the Donbas, the region in eastern Ukraine where fierce fighting has been going on for weeks. Last week, hundreds more Russian soldiers were believed to have died trying to cross a river. Putin is said to still work closely with Valery Gerasimov, the commander of the armed forces. Ukraine previously reported that Gerasimov had been cast aside. The senior soldier recently escaped death during a visit to the front.
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According to UNICEF, the United Nations children’s rights organization, more and more children are suffering from malnutrition due to the war in Ukraine. “Before the war, conflict, climate change and the corona pandemic made it difficult for many families to feed their children,” said UNICEF boss Catherine Russel. “Now the problems have only gotten worse.” Ukraine, which is considered the breadbasket of Europe, can export much less, putting food supplies at risk for many countries.In a statement, UNICEF warned that the supplemental emergency food for children, bags of ‘super peanut butter’ full of vitamins and minerals, will now have become much more expensive, UNICEF is considered the main supplier of this food.
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