Hundreds of Ukrainian troops ended their last stand to defend Mariupol, laying down their arms and surrendering to Russian troops at the Azovstal steel plant. The video above includes clips from the surrender. It comes nearly a month after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory in Mariupol.
“Over the past 24 hours, 265 militants laid down their arms and surrendered, including 51 seriously wounded,” Russian Defense Ministry Chief Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Tuesday. “All those who needed medical care were sent for treatment to a hospital in the city of Novoazovsk, Donetsk People’s Republic.”
According to officials on both sides, all Ukrainian troops were transported to two towns controlled by Moscow-backed separatists. An unknown number of Ukrainian troops remained inside the Mariupol steel plant as of early Tuesday.
While Russia called the laying down of arms a mass surrender, Ukraine avoided using the term. Instead, the country said the garrison had completed its mission, and officials were working to pull out the fighters that remain.
“Thanks to the defenders of Mariupol, we have gained critically important time to form reserves, to regroup forces and to receive aid from our partners,” Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defense Hanna Maliar said Monday. “Mariupol’s defenders have fully accomplished all missions assigned by the commanders.”
Azovstal’s fall would mark the complete capture of Mariupol, giving Russia its biggest victory in its invasion of Ukraine to this point. Wrapping up Mariupol’s capture would give Russia a bridge to the Crimean Peninsula, which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014, and also deprives Ukraine of a vital port. It could also free up Russian forces for fighting elsewhere in the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine.
On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov turned his attention to Russia’s wider foreign policy goals. He described Ukraine as “an expendable item” that “was being physically dragged into NATO.”
“Our priorities are clear now. And they are not anti-Western,” Lavrov said. “Our priorities favor accelerating relations with the countries who respect the principles of UN regulations – sovereign equality of states above all.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.