Despite harsh conditions at the Azovstal steelworks, the Ukrainian military’s last foothold in the important port city of Mariupol, civilians continue to arrive seeking refuge from Russia’s offensive, according to fighters there.
May. Serhiy Volyna, the acting head of a Ukrainian naval unit defending the facility, told The New York Times in a telephone interview on Friday that there were few places left in the city where residents could escape.
“There are various shelters that were used by civilians that have been destroyed,” he said. “These people are coming to us.”
Russia considers the conquest of Mariupol crucial to its goal of securing a land bridge along southern Ukraine to connect Crimea with the Donbas, and its forces have relentlessly shelled the facility. The facility has become the last refuge for thousands of captured Ukrainian warriors and civilians. Efforts to establish safe evacuation corridors have been repeatedly thwarted by Russia’s continued shelling, and there is little food left inside.
Over the past few days, Ukrainian forces at the steel complex have posted videos on social media drawing attention to the serious situation that exists there for civilians seeking refuge, especially women and children.
The fact that civilians are still seeking refuge there – with no prospect of escape or rescue – is a testament to what they have to face elsewhere in the devastated city.
“The amount of people is changing and increasing day by day,” said Major Volyna. “We have far exceeded what defines a humanitarian catastrophe.”