This is the last Ukrainian resistance focus in Mariupol
Russian troops have been besieging Mariupol for weeks, a Ukrainian city by the Sea of Azov that before the offensive had about 400,000 inhabitants. This week, Russia has reported that more than a thousand Ukrainian soldiers have surrendered in the port of the city (an information not confirmed by Ukraine), but there is still another pocket of resistance in the nearby Azovstal steel plant, one of the largest in Europe.
The industrial complex has become an apocalyptic stronghold for the Ukrainian forces, who have been under siege for seven weeks. In the east of the southern port ravaged by weeks of bombing, the plant sits in an industrial zone that overlooks the Sea of Azov and covers more than 11 square kilometers filled with buildings, blast furnaces and railways.
“The Azovstal factory is a huge space with so many buildings that the Russians cannot find [a las fuerzas ucranias]”explains Oleg Ydanov, a military analyst from kyiv. “That’s why [los rusos] they started talking about trying a chemical attack; that is the only way to drive them away,” adds the analyst.
Ukraine has said it is checking unverified information that Russia may have used chemical weapons in Mariupol. The separatists supported by President Vladimir Putin have denied that they used this ammunition.
In peacetime, the Azovstal steel plant produced four million tons of steel per year, 3.5 million tons of hot metal and 1.2 million tons of rolled steel. Like the other Illich steelworks in the city, Azovstal is owned by Metinvest, the group controlled by billionaire Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man.
A Russian separatist deputy commander has said on Russian state television that Moscow had captured 80% of the port, but that resistance continued and that all Ukrainian forces had tried “to break out towards the Azovstal factory”. Furthermore, he has described the factory as a “fortress in a city”.
Among the city’s defenders are marines Ukrainians, motorized brigades, a brigade of the National Guard and the Azov Battalion, a militia created by extreme right-wing nationalists, some with Nazi ideology, which was later incorporated into the National Guard. The destruction of this battalion is among Moscow’s war goals: Putin calls the invasion a “special operation” for the “demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine.”
“The Azov Battalion is effectively in the Azovstal territory… They are huge industrial zones with workshops that cannot be destroyed from the air, so the Russians are using heavy bombs,” said Sergiy Zgurets, an analyst. military. (Reuters)