With supplies running low, amputations conducted in a ramshackle clinic, and corpses piling up, the fighters trapped at the besieged steel plant in Ukraine’s Mariupol are battling to hold on as Russian forces tighten their grip on the city’s last redoubt.
A smattering of Ukrainian units making their last stand are sheltering in the labyrinth of Soviet-era bunkers and tunnels snaking beneath the sprawling steelworks along with an untold number of wounded and dead combatants.
Details about the chaotic final defence and desperate efforts to tend to the wounded have been painstakingly pieced together by military medic Yevgenia Tytarenko, whose husband and colleagues remain trapped inside the factory.
“Lots of soldiers are in serious condition in the hospital. They are injured with no medicine. Food and water are running out,” said Tytarenko, who remains in regular contact with people inside the Azovstal plant.
“I’ll be standing until the end,” Tytarenko’s husband and medic Mykhailo texted to her on Friday, in a message shared with AFP.
For weeks, Russian forces have pounded the steelworks by land, air, and sea — while attempting to breach its defenses that have led to fierce firefights at the facility.
Commanders have issued their final goodbyes to loved ones as supplies dwindle and the Russians close in, while the possibility of extracting the fighters looks increasingly unlikely, said Tytarenko.
“Commanders have already said their farewells to their wives. One of them messaged his wife: ‘Don’t cry. We’ll be back home in any case — alive or dead’,” said Tytarenko.
Tytarenko described a chaotic and complex operation inside Azovstal with fighters battling the Russians while also shepherding civilians along with the bodies of those killed to different parts of the plant.