Mariupol’s Last Defenders Warn the City Will Soon Fall to Russia
Despite the increasingly dire situation confronting Ukrainian troops in Mariupol, the commander of the city's last defenders says they will not lay down their arms.
As Russian forces close in on Mariupol’s last Ukrainian stronghold, its remaining defenders warn the city will soon fall.
“We are probably facing our last days, if not hours,” said Maj. Serhiy Volyna, the commander of Mariupol’s Ukrainian forces, in a video address on Wednesday.
"There are about 500 wounded military, it is very difficult to provide them with medical care. They literally rot. There are civilians on the territory. They are also suffering from explosions, blasts on them, next to them. [The Russians] use heavy aircraft bombs against us and strike with artillery,” Volyna said, adding that his forces are “outnumbered ten to one.”
Despite the increasingly dire situation confronting Ukrainian troops in Mariupol, Volyna insists Mariupol’s last defenders will not lay down their arms, adding that they will continue "to conduct combat operations and to complete our military tasks as long as we receive them.” The claim that civilians are sheltering on site has not been independently verified. Volyna declined to share how many Ukrainian defenders remain; according to Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov, that number is 2,500.
“We appeal and plead to all world leaders to help us. We ask them to use the procedure of extraction and take us to the territory of a third-party state,” Volyna said. “We very much hope that President Biden will hear us and help resolve our situation. We believe that this is one of the few people who can really influence and solve this situation in a short time."
The strategic southeastern port hub of Mariupol came under siege by Russian forces in the opening stages of the war. Russian-aligned separatists from the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Chechen fighters stormed Mariupol in late March, prompting its defenders to withdraw into the city’s industrial port district.
Mariupol’s remaining Ukrainian troops are holed up in the underground levels of the Azovstal steel plant, turning the massive facility into what Russian military officials described as a “fortress within the city.”
Russia’s military has appealed to the Ukrainian forces—reportedly composed primarily of fighters from the ultranationalist Azov battalion—with repeated ultimatums to surrender in exchange for safe passage out of the city. The Russian demands have been either ignored or explicitly rejected, with Volyna telling the Washington Post on Tuesday that “no one believes” Moscow’s assurances of safe passage. Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed last week that over 1,000 Ukrainian marines surrendered to Russian forces in Mariupol.
Russian state media outlet TASS reported on Tuesday that DPR forces, supported by Russian artillery and tactical aviation, have begun storming parts of the Azovstal complex.
Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest.