It could be a turning point in the war that has been unfolding on Ukrainian soil since the end of February. The last Ukrainian soldiers entrenched in the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, southeastern Ukraine, have been ordered to “stop defending the city”, said Denys Prokopenko, commander of the Azov regiment, in a video message, Friday, May 20.

“The higher military command gave the order to save the lives of the soldiers of our garrison and to stop defending the city,” said Mr. Prokopenko, head of one of the Ukrainian units present in the steel plant.

Civilians safe, wounded soldiers cared for

This immense metallurgical complex, with its maze of underground galleries dug during the Soviet era, was the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in this port city on the Sea of ​​Azov, massively bombarded by the Russians.

After the recent evacuation of civilians, 1,908 Ukrainian soldiers entrenched in the bowels of the steel plant, including wounded, have since Monday surrendered to Russian forces, the Russian defense minister said. “The civilians were evacuated, the seriously injured received the necessary assistance and were evacuated to Ukrainian territory,” Prokopenko said.

“The process continues” to evacuate the bodies of the soldiers killed, he added. “I hope that soon the families and all of Ukraine can bury their fighters with honors. Glory to Ukraine,” he concluded.