Injured Ukrainian forces leave Azovstal steelworks

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Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar described the operation in a video statement, noting that some Ukrainian forces remained in Azovstal.

“Fifty-three seriously injured people were evacuated from Azovstal to a medical facility in Novoazovsk for medical care,” he said. “Another 211 people were taken to Olenivka via the humanitarian corridor.”

Malyar also said there will be an “exchange procedure” for those evacuated to eventually be brought home.

“Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday, thanking the Ukrainian military and negotiators, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations.

“Work is ongoing to bring the kids home, and it takes tact and time,” he added.

According to the state news agency RIA Novosti, the Russian Ministry of Defense had previously said that a ceasefire had been established to allow the passage of wounded Ukrainian soldiers.

Mariupol officials said the evacuation of civilians in the besieged city had been halted until Monday.

Mariupol, a port city on the Sea of ​​Azov, has witnessed some of the most intense fighting in Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion in late February.

The city became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance during weeks of relentless Russian bombardment.

While most of the city had already fallen to the Kremlin and the allied forces, the Ukrainian defenders resisted at the massive Azovstal steelworks, which housed some 1,000 civilians, as supplies of food, water and medicine dwindled.

Many civilians were evacuated. But the Ukrainian fighters in the city had promised to “fight to the end” in April, despite being surrounded, low on ammunition, and outnumbered by Russian forces.

Russian TV network RT showed video of about 10 to 12 buses leaving the steel mill on Monday. The buses looked like a mix of hospital and casual transport, some with a red cross.

Trapped at Azovstal steelworks, Ukrainians consider desperate measures as the Russians approachTrapped at Azovstal steelworks, Ukrainians consider desperate measures as the Russians approach

In a statement, Malyar thanked the “defenders of Mariupol” for giving Ukraine “a critical time to build up reserves, regroup forces and seek help from partners”.

“Unfortunately we have no chance of unblocking Azovstal by military means,” he said.

The country’s Azov Regiment also issued a statement on Monday stating that “the entire Mariupol garrison” is following orders to save lives.

“To save lives, the entire Mariupol garrison implements the approved decision of the Supreme Military Command and hopes for the support of the Ukrainian people,” the Azov Regiment said late Monday. Said.

“The defenders of Mariupol, despite all the difficulties, carried out the order and stalled the overwhelming forces of the enemy for 82 days.”

CNN’s Olga Voitovych contributed to this report.