No Surrender To Russians Says Besieged Azovstal Plant Defender
Putin wants a Victory Day parade in Mariupol as defenders of the last bastion of Ukrainian control in the city say they’ll fight to the end.
Despite weeks of ceaseless attacks from the air, the ground and recently inside, Ukrainian forces say they still control most of the sprawling Azovstal steel plant.
And they plan to fight until there are no defenders left.
But with food, water and ammunition supplies dwindling, holding out is getting more difficult every day, Bohdan Krotevych, a major in the National Guard of Ukraine and chief of staff of the Azov Regiment, told The War Zone in an exclusive interview from inside the steel plant conducted over social media messaging apps.
“We are still struggling,” Krotevych, chief of staff to the commander of the Azov Regiment, told The War Zone Sunday afternoon eastern time.
Defending Azovstal, the last bastion of Ukrainian forces in Mariupol, is becoming increasingly difficult because Russia keeps sending its troops into the industrial hellscape.
Though the vast plant was designed to withstand a nearby nuclear bomb strike, and the constant bombardment has created a lot of rubble that helps defenders, which is making a difference, Krotevych said.
“The enemy bears losses and continues to [send] fresh reserves here. These are battles in metallurgical shops, on short distances from 15 to 200 meters.”
The battles have raged even during efforts to evacuate the civilians trapped inside. A fourth such effort led to all the civilians being removed, Azov Deputy Commander Cap. Sviatoslav “Kalina” Palamar and Azov Lt. Illia Samoilenko said in a press conference Sunday from inside the plant.
In total, about 200 civilians were evacuated, Krotevych said.
“However, I would like to note that there are cases of abduction of girls by Russians after the withdrawal from Azovstal right in front of the Red Cross and the UN, and no one can still provide security guarantees,” he said. “The Russian side is always sabotaging the process, shelling the plant at a time when our military is looking for civilians under the rubble and concrete debris.” During the ceasefire and evacuation of civilians, Krotevych said three Ukrainian troops were killed and six were injured.
The War Zone could not verify the veracity of his claims.
In a previous interview with The War Zone on April 29, Krotevych said there were about 2,000 Ukrainian troops left at Azovstal.
Sunday, he declined to offer specifics.
“I can't name this figure,” he said, “but I will say that quite a lot.”
Nor would he say how many supplies are left.
But he did describe the sounds and smell inside the plant after nearly 70 days of constant Russian attacks.
“It is the smell and sound of war, fire, constant explosions and smoke,” he said.
The Russians were able to enter the plant because a staff member tipped them off, Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Internal Affairs Ministry, said on his Telegram channel.
“A staff member at Azovstal betrayed Ukraine and told Russians about underground tunnels that lead to the plant,” he wrote Wednesday. “That's why they launched their attack yesterday and currently the Russians are trying to force their way onto Azovstal territory.”
Krotevych said it was no shock that the Russians made their way inside the plant.
“We are not surprised,” he said. “The enemy is reinforced by artillery, aircraft and tanks. They destroy the position, then try to storm it.”
The Russians are even using anti-tank missiles against Ukrainian troops.
“Although this is an inappropriate use of ammunition, their resources are still too big,” he said.
Russia is planning a parade Monday in Mariupol to celebrate its gains in the war against Ukraine - on the occasion of Victory Day, the commemoration of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany during World War II, the Washington Post reported. Russians have enlisted residents to “clear debris, bodies and munitions from the streets in exchange for food ahead of the celebrations.”
In a message he delivered Saturday, President Volodymyr Zelensky said his government is working to evacuate “our military. All heroes who defend Mariupol.”
That, he said, is an “extremely difficult” task.
“But it is important,” Zelensky said. “I'm sure everyone understands the root cause of this complication, as well as where the cause is located. But we do not lose hope. We do not stop. Every day we are looking for a diplomatic option that can work out.”
For his part, Krotevych isn’t talking about evacuation. He is talking about continuing the fight.
“We need the Ukrainian government to attack the occupied territories in our direction,” he said. “We need military assistance from the world and the opening of an additional front against Russia.”
While Russian President Vladimir Putin might want a victory parade in Mariupol on Monday, Krotevych said there is only one thing on the minds of he and his troops.
“We will do everything for Ukraine’s victory in this war,” he said. “We are fighting to the last.”
Contact the author: Howard@thewarzone.com