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We’ll fight for as long as we have to: Azov battalion soldier

We have supplies of water and ammunition, we’ll fight for as long as we have to, said Illya Samoilenko, commander of the Azov battalion which is currently blocked by the Russian troops in Mariupol’s Azovstal steel works, during an online briefing broadcast live on Saturday by the Ukrainian website Hromadske. The soldiers said that hundreds of wounded soldiers were trapped in the plant and that the Russians killed 25,000 civilians in the city.

Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Azov battalion, said during the briefing that within one night the territory of the plant was bombed twenty-five times, and that in three of those instances strategic bombers were used. Palamar said the Russians were using tube artillery, tanks, mortars and snipers, and the infantry was trying to storm the plant. He stressed that he didn’t know if all civilians had been evacuated, because the soldiers had no access to equipment which could get rid of the rubble.

“There are many bodies of civilians and the military in the plant,” he said, pointing out that three soldiers have been killed and six have been wounded two days earlier during the evacuation of civilians. “For two and a half months we’ve been asking the whole world, journalists and politicians, to evacuate the civilians, and only now have they managed to evacuate a few hundred people,” he said, calling on the international leaders and organisations to take more decisive actions to evacuate the remaining civilians trapped in the besieged city.

Samoilenko said several hundred injured soldiers have remained in the plant. He said Ukrainian defenders were determined not to surrender. “Every prisoner of war is an opportunity to exert political and military pressure” that could be used to undermine Ukraine’s strength, he added.

According to Samoilenko, the defenders of Mariupol have killed 2,500 Russian soldiers, wounded another 5,000, and destroyed over 60 enemy tanks from February 24 to April 15. He said that thanks to the Azovstal fighters’ resistance 25,000 Russian soldiers were currently engaged in Mariupol, which meant they couldn’t be moved to another part of the front.

He also revealed that earlier on, the commander of the 36th Marine Brigade Volodymyr Baraniuk had fled Mariupol with a group of soldiers and “a small number of working tanks, transporters and ammunition.” “It’s a huge disgrace,” commented Samoilenko.

He said the Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol have not received reinforcement since the start of the war, but they still had weapons. “ We’re cut off from all sides. We’re dead men and most of us know that,” he said, adding that each contact with the outside world could be their last.

Samoilenko said that due to the ongoing war, the Mariupol defenders were unable to assess the actions of the authorities, but he did say that they failed to prepare for the defence of Mariupol. The soldiers in Azovstal plant received the order to “defend Mariupol” and that’s what they’re doing, he said.

“Don’t waste our efforts and sacrifices,” said Samoilenko. He addressed the international community, saying that “the third side” should guarantee the evacuation of wounded soldiers from the steel plant, as well as the extraction of the battalion. He added that the sanctions were not severe enough and that unless the Western countries stop buying Russian energy resources, Russia would keep killing people in Ukraine and elsewhere.

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