On May 20, the Russian military announced that the last members of Ukraine’s Azov forces at the Azovstal steel plant in the city of Mariupol had surrendered.
Russian state media RT agency and Germany’s DW news agency reported that the entire area of the Azovstal steel factory complex has been completely liberated and is under the control of the Russian military .
Over the past month, more than 2,400 people, including Ukrainian soldiers and members of the Azov fascist forces, have laid down their weapons and surrendered.
Pro-Kremlin telegram channels also released a video with Sergei Volynsky, the commander of the 36th Marine Brigade unit, in which he said that his unit has surrendered. The unit was one of the main forces defending the steelworks.
In a statement, Russian Army Spokesperson Colonel Igor Konashenkov said: “The last group of gunmen of 531 people today (May 20) surrendered… A total of 2,439 Azov fascists and Ukrainian servicemen have laid down their arms and surrendered since May 16. The entire Azovstal complex is now under the control of the Russian armed forces.
Azov forces and Ukrainian soldiers have retreated to the Azovstal steel plant, which has a fortified tunnel system that can withstand nuclear attacks, in the strategic coastal city of Mariupol. The Russian army has been besieging this complex since April 21. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian forces not to attack the factory, instead of conducting a siege, isolating and calling the gunmen to surrender.
On May 21, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu reported to President Putin about the successful conclusion of the operation in Azovstal. Konashenkov added that the commander of the Azov force was taken away in an armored vehicle to ensure safety.
On May 17, the Ukrainian army ordered the gunmen entrenched at the Azovstal steel plant in the city of Mariupol to surrender to preserve their lives.
According to RT (Russia), the Kyiv government announced that the units had “completed the assigned combat mission”. The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine confirmed on social media that its soldiers hiding at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol have been ordered to surrender.
In a statement, the Ukrainian military said: “The forces in Mariupol have completed their assigned combat mission…. The high military command has ordered the commanders of the units stationed in Azovstal to protect the life of members”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said: “Thanks to the actions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, intelligence, as well as the negotiating team, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations, we hope to be able to save the lives of Ukrainians. I want to emphasize that Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive. This is our principle. I think everyone will understand these words. To bring our soldiers home, the work continues, requiring ingenuity and time.”
The Azovstal Steel Plant serves as the Ukrainian army’s ‘last bastion of defense’ in Mariupol, the major port city that has seen the heaviest fighting of the Russian offensive in Ukraine. This industrial facility has an extensive network of tunnels and bunkers where Ukrainian gunmen hid after the fall of Mariupol.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on May 19 that it had registered hundreds of Ukrainian fighters who surrendered to Russia at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol as prisoners of war (POW). The statement by the ICRC, which acts as a defender of the Geneva Conventions, came shortly after the Russian military said approximately 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers at the Azovstal steel plant had surrendered.