© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Deputy commander of the Azov regiment Svyatoslav Palamar is seen making a video statement as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine, in Mariupol, Ukraine, in this screen grab from a broadcast video uploaded on Jan. April 24, 2022. Azov / Handout via REUTERS
By Tom Balmforth and Margaryta Chornokondratenko
KYIV (Reuters) – A Ukrainian soldier hiding in a steel structure in Mariupol said his forces would fight as long as necessary and he urged world leaders to find ways to save civilians and goods. Hundreds of soldiers trapped in the “medieval” siege of Russia.
Captain Sviatoslav Palamar, 39, deputy commander of Ukraine’s Azov Regiment, said in an interview with Reuters the steelwork was the ultimate debt to the port city’s defense forces.
Russian forces have reduced much of Mariupol to rubble around the vast complex and its underground catacombs, where Palamar and the Ukrainian army are making their last stand.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who declared control of the city last week, said the factory should be sealed off so that “not a single fly” could escape.
“As long as we stay here and defend … the city is not theirs,” said Palamar.
He said fierce fighting was still going on and they were constantly bombed. At one point, Russian forces sent in a column of tanks, armored vehicles and infantry, but the defenders destroyed it. Tactics are constantly changing, he said.
“The tactic (now) is like a medieval siege. We’re surrounded, they’re no longer sending out much force to break our defenses. They’re launching air strikes.” , he said.
Palamar, who is married and has one child, declined to provide exact details of the activities because they could help the enemy. He wouldn’t say how much food and ammunition they had left, but they still had hundreds of warriors.
“Of course our resources are not limitless and they are dwindling with each day of intense fighting. The situation is difficult, but we will fight and fight as long as we have to.”
He said they had more than 500 wounded fighters, some in serious condition.
“We don’t have the conditions to treat them, to do a really difficult surgery.. the medicine has run out, the bandages and food and water.”
The capture of Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov to the south of the Donbas industrial zone, is significant to Russia’s efforts to secure a land bridge connecting the Crimean peninsula it seized from Ukraine in 2014. 2014.
Palamar, from the western city of Lviv but has lived in Mariupol since 2014, could not say how many civilians were in the steel works, but said they ran into hundreds. They took shelter in different bunkers for soldiers, he said.
Mariupol’s Azovstal, one of Europe’s largest metallurgical plants, is a huge industrial complex containing underground chambers and tunnels.
“We bring food to them (civilians) and check their health, but we can’t stay with them for obvious reasons: the enemy might stage a provocation and say that …we were hiding behind the civilians.”
A bunker holding civilians, including children, was hit by rockets on Tuesday and an elderly man and woman were injured, he said.
The bearded man with intense eyes told Zoom’s Reuters. He said he couldn’t turn on the call camera to show his whereabouts in case it provided any intelligence to the Russians.
He accused Russia of relentlessly urging civilians there to evacuate while continuing to attack the area. He called on international organizations such as the United Nations or the Red Cross to provide guarantees to evacuate civilians immediately.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is in Ukraine and is expected to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy late on Thursday following his meeting with Putin on Tuesday.
Palamar said once the civilians are out, the wounded and dead should be brought back to Ukraine and ensure safe passage for the Ukrainian contingent there.
Being taken prisoner is not an option, he said.
“They’ll be killed in captivity, they’ll be burned, and that’s why we’re proposing a third party that in the course of the negotiations can ensure they get out of Azovstal,” he said.
He mentioned Turkey or Israel as possible third parties.
Ukrainian forces include the Azov Regiment, the National Guard, other brigades, marines, maritime security forces, border guards and police.
Azov warriors in the steel works include Russians, Bulgars, Crimean Tatars, Greeks, Jews, Catholics and others, he said.
He said his main message to the world was to be wary of the threat from Russia and stop being soft on Moscow.
“I hope the world now realizes its mistake … Everything that our soldiers do here – not just in Mariupol, but on Ukrainian territory – we believe we are saving not only Ukraine, but also Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Moldova and Georgia,” he said.