Recently, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces stated that the besieged city of Mariupol, specifically the Azov Battalion inside of the bunkers under the Azovstal Steel Plant, surrendered to Russian forces, and evacuated the nuclear bunkers underneath the Azovstal plant. Ukrainian forces had been trapped inside of the city for almost 2 months after it was surrounded near the start of the Russian offensive in Southern Ukraine. The Azov Battalion of the Ukrainian armed forces, which had been formed after the war in the Donbas in 2014 (which started as the defensive battalion for Mariupol). The city was actually once taken by Donetsk People’s Republic forces in 2014, but was Liberated by the Azov battalion in late 2014, and was made their headquarters. This explains why Azov was the last battalion fighting in Mariupol, and the last to surrender after moving into the underground nuclear bunkers inside of the Azovstal-Mariupol Steel Plant. The bunkers were originally made in the 1970s by the Soviet Union’s central government to protect some 40,000 workers who worked at the plant at the time from a nuclear attack by the United States.
A view of Mariupol after the end of the battle for the Steel plant (Andrey Borodoulin/AFP/Getty Images)
Estimates from several sources stated that there were likely 700 or so Azovstal fighters who had taken up defensive positions inside of the Azovstal steel plant and had held up an estimated 14,000 Russian and Donetsk soldiers for 2 months, which had likely helped keep Russian forces from seizing the tactically vital city of Zaporizhia. Russian officials and military officers reported that a majority of the surrendered Azov soldiers (which numbered around 700 during their surrender) were being taken as Prisoners of War (POWs) to Russia, and will likely be used in the future for prisoner exchanges with the Ukrainian armed forces.