Trapped Ukrainian Fighters expected to be swapped for Russian POWs

More than 260 Ukrainian soldiers have been evacuated from a steel plant in Mariupol, the country’s deputy defense minister said, after a weeks-long standoff with Russian forces in the besieged southern port city.

Aljazeera quotes Mariupol Mayor Anna Malyar as saying that in the early hours of Tuesda, 53 seriously wounded fighters were taken from the Azovstal steelworks to a hospital in Novoazovsk, while an additional 211 fighters were evacuated to Olenivka through a humanitarian corridor

The evacuation of the Ukrainian fighters from their last stronghold in Mariupol likely marks the end of the months-long deadly battle for the city.

The troops’ defence of the Azovstal steelworks with very little food and water, and under intense Russian bombardment, became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance.

They were said to have been in urgent need of medical help, and pictures from inside the plant showed men with broken arms and amputated limbs. Their relatives made desperate pleas for a deal to rescue them.

The BBC, quoting Ukraine’s deputy Defense Minister, Hanna Maliar, said 53 injured fighters had been taken to a hospital in the Russian-controlled town of Novoazovsk, while another 211 people had been transported to Olenivka, a town controlled by Russian-backed separatists. All of the evacuees, she said, would be subject to an “exchange procedure”.

But details of what has been agreed remain unclear. The speculation is that the evacuated fighters will be exchanged for Russian prisoners of war, but that has not been officially confirmed. Hundreds of fighters remain at the plant, and it is also not clear when and how they will be evacuated.

As for Mariupol, most of it now lies in ruins. Local officials say tens of thousands have been killed, with many of their bodies still under the rubble of destroyed buildings.

Credit: Aljazeera and BBC

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