Ukrainian fighter trapped in a steel mill: “If we run out of food, we will catch birds”
Fighters inside the defeated plant are “sharing water and food” with civilians, but time is running out, Ukrainian Azov regimental deputy commander Svyatoslav Palamar told CNN on Monday evening.
“We are extremely short of supplies in terms of water and food. I cannot tell you for sure how much is left … but I can assure you that we are saving, very fearful without water and food, and especially ammunition”, Palamar, who is all ‘interior of the plant, he said.
“If (worse) it gets worse and we run out of food, we will catch birds and do whatever it takes to just stay strong,” he added.
But Russia says its forces have now reached the outskirts of the plant and are carrying out a “step-by-step evacuation mission,” even though Palamar says Ukrainian defenses are holding up for now. His fighters repelled him multiple attacks and killed five Russian soldiers, he said.
About 100 civilians were evacuated from the plant on Sunday. But another 100 are thought to remain, including 20 children, Palamar told Reuters on Monday. It is not clear how many fighters are still taking refuge there.
Those evacuated on Sunday emerged from the plant into rubble-strewn streets and unrecognizable neighborhoods in bombed Mariupol.
Images released by Reuters on Sunday show women, children and the elderly emerging from buses to an area bordered by white tents in the Russian-controlled town of Bezimenne, about 16 miles east of Mariupol, in a convoy of Russian tanks. decorated with the letter Z and UN vehicles. Some cling to bags of their belongings. One holds a cat carrier. Soldiers in anonymous overalls, armed with rifles, patrol the area.
One of the displaced, a woman who worked at the Azovstal steel mill, said she spent weeks hiding in the labyrinth of Soviet-era bunkers beneath the facility. She said that she had previously tried to escape Mariupol through an evacuation corridor, but that the relentless bombing had stopped her.
“I was afraid to even go out and get some fresh air,” the woman said. “I can’t believe it. Two months of darkness.”
Palamar said the plane was now subject to continued aerial bombardment by Russian forces, despite the remaining civilians.
“The attacks continued unabated, they were tanks, artillery in flight and every three or five minutes there is an aerial bombardment … the cynicism of all this is that there are still civilians taking refuge in the plant and yet so the enemy continues bombing, “Palamar said.
He said that “as of now, the entire territory of the plant is under our control and … we are holding the defense.”
But it is unclear how long he and the Azov regiment will be able to continue doing this.
Palamar said he and his fighters could not have faith that if captured by the Russians, they would be treated respectfully as prisoners of war. He accused the Russians of war crimes, claiming that there was an incident in which they sent pictures of a tortured Ukrainian soldier to his mother.
“They are not abiding by those conventions and are killing and torturing prisoners of war,” he said. “Just to add that, unlike Russian soldiers, we are treating POWs differently.”
Palamar also claimed that the Ukrainians have Russian POWs with them at the plant.
“Indeed, we are sharing our supplies with them … we have an officer, a tank commander and two other military men (who are being kept) in the same condition we are in.”
CNN cannot independently verify Palamar’s claims.