“Thanks to the actions of the Ukrainian military – the Armed Forces of Ukraine, intelligence, the negotiating team, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations – we hope that we will be able to save the lives of our guys,” the president said.
He recalled that there are seriously wounded servicemen among them, who are now being provided with medical aid.
“I’d like to emphasize: Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive. This is our principle. I think that every adequate person will understand these words,” Zelensky stressed.
The operation to rescue the Mariupol defenders was started by the Ukrainian military and intelligence operatives, the president explained, adding that “to bring our boys home,” the operation requires “delicacy” and “time.”
As Ukrinform reported earlier, commanders of units defending the Azovstal steelworks, Ukraine’s last stronghold in Mariupol, received an order from the highest military command “to save the lives of personnel.”
The General Staff recalled that 53 severely wounded servicemen had been evacuated to a medical facility in Novoazovsk, while another 211 defenders had been taken to Olenivka through a humanitarian corridor and are set to be returned to the government-controlled territory through a POW exchange procedure.
According to a report by Reuters, dozens of buses were seen driving out of the Azovstal premises, presumably carrying Ukrainian servicemen.