The last resisters of Azovstal

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From left to right starting with the top row. Artem Vyshinyok; Mykola; Kirill Gurov; Bogdan; Igor Myzovets and Stepan Golovko. /RC

Mariupol. The Government of Ukraine organizes an extreme rescue operation for soldiers injured in the steel mill

The Government of Ukraine is preparing a large-scale operation to evacuate wounded soldiers and the bodies of soldiers killed during the Russian siege from the Azovstal steelworks. Today marks eleven days of continuous attacks on this steel complex, the last focus of resistance against the invaders in the strategic port city of Mariupol and a global metaphor for the stubbornness of the Ukrainians to defend their territory. Although all the civilians have already been transferred to safe locations, there are about a thousand combatants left inside the factory, with each passing day more like a theater of ruin and death. The Russian artillery bombardments were repeated yesterday morning with mathematical punctuality. Several of the facilities burned last night while the military awaited with uncertainty the negotiations of the Executive.

The intention of the authorities is to complete in several phases the evacuation of the soldiers who suffer the most serious injuries due to their excruciating suffering due to the lack of medication, the lack of hygiene and the impossibility of carrying out surgical interventions. The Kremlin had not yet approved this plan last night. “We have started a round of talks on the roadmap. We’ll start with the seriously injured. The Red Cross and the UN have met with the Russians and have agreed on a series of negotiations,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereschuk said. The Government, which has the mediation of the Turkish authorities, wants the Russians to commit themselves in writing in an attempt to avoid the successive breakdowns of the truce that caused the failure of some of the humanitarian corridors established with civilians. In the last evacuation of the women and children who remained refugees in the plant, three Ukrainian soldiers died and several more were injured when missiles launched by the invading troops hit their vehicles.

War in Ukraine, live: Last minute

Vereschuk explained that inside Azovstal there are not only the members of the controversial Azov Battalion -which Moscow describes as “Nazi” for its extreme right-wing ideology-, but also a large number of Army officers and soldiers, border guards and agents of the National Police. The Ukrainian ‘Pravda’ paid tribute to all of them in yesterday’s edition, in a series of stories signed by María Golub, the summary of which is included in this newspaper today. “All of them need to be saved,” claimed the vice president. The trump card that kyiv plays to achieve an agreement with Russia is the exchange of prisoners. She proposes to the Kremlin to release the Azovstal fighters in exchange for detained Russian servicemen.

The offensive on Mariupol began in February and succeeded in reducing Ukrainian opposition to the Azovstal plant, which has been shelled incessantly since February 3. Local authorities said earlier this week that the assault has intensified since the last convoy of civilians which managed to evacuate 500 people.

THE DATA:

3,400 is the number of civilians killed during the Russian invasion confirmed by the UN so far. However, the United Nations Human Rights Commission itself considers that the real number of fatalities will be much higher, although right now “incalculable.”

The UN has confirmed the death of 3,400 civilians due to the invasion, although it admits that it is a figure without any sign of reality. In fact, he suspects that only in Mariúpol, a scene of “unimaginable horrors”, there are “thousands of dead”, according to High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet.

Artem Vyshinyok – 21 years old

The young man who saved a swift

“He loves animals. He will not eat, but he will feed them. Once he saw a swift with a broken wing, he called a taxi, took the bird and took it to the vet ». Artem Vyshnyak’s family speaks of this 21-year-old soldier who has been locked up for weeks in the Azovstal factory. Born in Brovary, on the outskirts of kyiv, Artem joined the Azov Battalion three years ago, although his decision had been made since 2014, at the start of the Donbas conflict. “He wants to defend the country from him,” says his mother, Tatiana. As a teenager he followed the Revolution of Dignity or Maidan and participated in acts for the unity of Ukraine, whose history is his passion. How is the Russian siege living now? Tatiana only imagines it. “My son is reluctant to talk about the war. He knows I’m worried, so he doesn’t say anything terrible. He says that he is willing to give his life for this land. But I’m not ready for that.”

Mykola – 24 years old

A veteran true to his word

At 24 years old, Mykola is a war veteran. As soon as he came of age he entered the ranks of the regiment and, before that, he took part in the Maidan protests. As a kid he dreamed in Dnipropetrovsk of becoming a dog trainer. Today, this staunch defender of Ukraine is considered a hero of the Mariupol resistance, true to his principle that “words must match deeds.” His partner, Olga Malyuchenko, manages to talk to him from time to time. She “she says that there is a lack of qualified care for the wounded.” Mykola has seen during the confinement children who “dream of a piece of bread and a sip of water”. «Our heroes -Olga points out- give the last to the civilians. They are ready to resist until the end, but we do not need posthumous heroes. We need them alive and with us.”

Kirill Gurov – 32 years old

The death of the “brothers”

Kirill Gurov’s life was severed by the Russian invasion on February 24. Until then, this 32-year-old leather goods manufacturer lived with his wife and two children without any major shocks, albeit within the calm that comes from being a member of the Azov Battalion, to which he has belonged since 2015. On the 20th of that month his “second family” called him to put him in a “state of alarm”. Four days later, the offensive came. The family moved to Mariupol, but on March 9, following a Russian attack on the hospital where they were sheltering, his wife and two children fled to Zaporizhia. Kirill stayed at the steel mill. She called her partner reassuring her with a brief “everything is under control” until in April she found out that he “had been injured. Many boys died. I can’t even imagine what my husband goes through when his brothers die.”

This is a history of love. Bogdam and Natalia met three years ago. They intimated. The war came. He, a former member of the Ukrainian Marine Corps, joined the front. On April 14, Bogdam’s birthday, Natalia received a letter from him sent from Azovstal. “I love you more than life. Do you agree to marry me? », She asked her. Three days later “we got married,” remembers Natalia. They can only communicate by phone or through the scant correspondence that eludes the siege. Bogdam refers to the attacks on the factory as the apocalypse. “He writes that this is not a war, but a murder”, although he is willing to carry out the order to “fight until the last drop of blood”, says Natalia, hoping that they will meet again. “You are already immortal,” she tells him in her last message.

Igor Myzovets – 20 years old

Military vocation since childhood

Igor Myzovets is one of the wounded soldiers waiting to be evacuated from the steel mill. He is too young. He is only 20 years old, but he has seen and felt the carnage of war. About to die twice under the bombs, he doesn’t know if he will make it out of the factory alive. Igor was clear from childhood about his military vocation. He graduated from the Shatsk Forestry College and then enlisted in the Army without telling anyone. His first destination was Lutsk. Right away he asked for his transfer to Mariupol. He arrived there on December 13 and two months later he called his parents. “The war had started and he asked if we were calm,” says his mother. He is about to serve a month in Azovstal. A sniper shattered his leg. “They did not remove the bullet. No x-rays. He says that now they have two options: be taken prisoner or, God forbid, be shot ».

Stepan Golovko

“We think he will come back alive”

Stepan Golovko was called to take up arms in Mariupol from the age of 13, when he joined the nationalist organizations of Donetsk, where he has lived almost all his life and led the regional section of the Ukraine Patriot Party. He fought in Kharkiv against pro-Russian separatists during the long military conflict that has bled Donbas since 2014 and is a leading member of the Azov Battalion. He has served as the first assistant to Andriy Biletsky, the controversial leader and founder of this unit linked to the extreme right. A lover of playing with his little son and a fan of soccer and telling stories of his country, Anna, his wife, assures that the “greatest value” for Stepan is “the freedom and life of people. He is in Azovstal. I know he has an injury. The situation is critical, but he does not lose his optimism. My son and I believe that he will return alive ».

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