On the 56th day of the Russian invasion, Ukraine received fighter jets to help fight the Russian offensive in the east of the country, where the last Ukrainian fighters entrenched in Mariupol made a desperate appeal to the international community for help. In a video message posted on Facebook and released this Wednesday (20) by the Ukrainian press, a military man summarizes what “may be his last appeal”. See the VIDEO above.
“We may be living our last days, even our last hours,” said Serhiy Volynsky, commander of Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade, after a new Moscow ultimatum for the surrender of Ukrainian fighters. He calls for soldiers and civilians still present in Mariupol, a Ukrainian city besieged by the Russians, to be removed from the Azovtal factory.
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“The enemy is ten times more numerous than we are”, he says. “We appeal and implore all world leaders to help us. We ask you to use the extraction procedure and take us to the territory of a third country.” According to Commander Volyna, the Russian army has “advantages in the air, artillery, ground forces, equipment and tanks”.
“We only defend one point, the Azovstal factory, where, in addition to soldiers, there are also civilians who have become victims of this war”, adds the soldier.
Explosions are heard at the Azovstal metallurgical plant in Mariupol, Ukraine.
At least 500 soldiers are said to be wounded at the site, which also houses civilians. At least 1,000 people, especially women, children and the elderly, are hiding with the fighters “in the underground shelters” of the factory, the Mariupol city council reported on Tuesday. An unofficial toll reveals the number of more than 20,000 civilians killed in the city.
After nearly two months of siege, the strategic Ukrainian port of Mariupol could fall into Russian hands. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry confirmed on Wednesday morning that the Russian army “was focusing most of its efforts on taking the city of Mariupol and continuing its attempts to conquer the area near the Azovstal steelworks”.
On Tuesday (19), Russia announced that it had carried out a series of air and missile strikes in eastern Ukraine. According to Kiev, it is the beginning of “the battle for Donbass” that has been feared for weeks. RFI Special Envoys Clea Broadhurst and Jad El Khoury accompanied a battalion to the front line.
Reporters came within 750 meters of Russian enemy troops in Donbass. For Aleksandr, commander of the Ukrainian battalion, the second phase of the offensive has already begun. “In the last two days, the bombing has become very strong, more and more frequent. Clearly the Russians are bringing in the heavy artillery,” says the soldier. “The bombings are approaching, the soldiers are getting ready”, he adds.
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Sergey is the battalion’s medical officer. He teaches how to give first aid. “I teach dressing and all the medical essentials they need to know. But I also show the routes to evacuate the group if necessary. I control everything. If a soldier is injured somewhere, I tend to him until he is taken out,” he explains.
Even prepared for war, this tired-looking soldier regrets the situation in which he finds himself. “I lost my best friend here a few weeks ago. It is very difficult to realize that I will never see him again. Civilians are going through it all, see Kramatorsk, Mariupol. What they did? It’s just people who lived a quiet life,” he says.
Under the sound of shelling, soldiers on this front line await the arrival of the Russians.