Ukraine’s military has stated that their forces have completed their “combat mission” in the besieged Azov Sea port city, Mariupol. 

As per a statement from the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, commanders of the units stationed at the Azovstal steel plant – Ukraine’s last stand in Mariupol – have received orders to “save the lives of their personnel”. 

On Tuesday, the Russian defence ministry announced that 265 Ukrainian soldiers, including several dozen wounded, surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant. As per the ministry’s statement, reported by Agence France-Presse, “Over the past 24 hours, 265 militants laid down their arms and surrendered, including 51 heavily wounded”. 

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The statement added that those in need of medical treatment were being transported to the town of Novoazovsk. This ties in with what Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar, said, “Fifty-three seriously injured people were evacuated from Azovstal to a medical facility in Novoazovsk for medical care”. 

She noted that an “exchange procedure” would see the Ukrainians return home safely. 

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky also said “Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive”, adding, “The 82nd day of our defence is coming to an end. A difficult day. But this day, like all others, is aimed precisely at saving our country and our people”. 

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The nation’s Azov Regiment also released a statement saying, “In order to save lives, the entire Mariupol garrison is implementing the approved decision of the Supreme Military Command and hopes for the support of the Ukrainian people”, and added, “The defenders of Mariupol fulfilled the order, despite all the difficulties, and distracted the overwhelming forces of the enemy for 82 days.”

Now, Ukraine is working on the “next stages of the humanitarian operation” as per Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk. 

She noted, as per CNN, “In the interests of saving lives, 52 of our severely wounded servicemen were evacuated yesterday. After their condition stabilizes, we will exchange them for Russian prisoners of war”.