Speed Reads

Speed Reads

Last Ukrainian civilians from Mariupol's Azovstal steel mill reach safety as remaining troops vow final fight

The last Ukrainian civilians extricated from Mariupol's massive Azovstal steel mill arrived in the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhzhia on Sunday night, the United Nations and International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) announced. The 174 Ukrainians who arrived in Zaporizhzhia from the Mariupol area Sunday night included more than 30 of the 51 final non-combatants evacuated from the Azovstal complex.

"I thank all those involved in this complex operation, including the leaders in Kyiv and Moscow for ensuring the necessary humanitarian pauses," U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said in a statement. "I applaud the determination and courage of the U.N. and ICRC teams on the ground." He said more than 600 civilians have been evacuated from the Azovstal plant.

About 100 Ukrainian marines and hundreds of fighters with the Azov Regiment remain in the plant, the only part of Mariupol not controlled by Russia. Ukraine and Russia say no more non-combatants remain in the Azovstal complex, but the leaders of the Azov Regiment said they could not be sure that's true. For the remaining fighters, "we can't just leave, we can only be evacuated," Azov Regiment Lt. Ilia Samoilenkot said in a two-hour news conference on Sunday streamed from on of Azovstal . "We are basically dead men. Most of us know this."

"We will always fight, as long as we are alive, for justice," said Azov's deputy commander, Capt. Sviatoslav "Kalina" Palamar.

The civilians who had spent two months sheltering underground at the plant, in its vast network of tunnels and bunkers, told The Associated Press that the ordeal was a terrifying fight for survival, with constant Russian shelling making the  bunkers shake, dwindling food stocks cooked over fires fueled by hand sanitizer, and mold on the walls from dripping water. Without help from the Ukrainian fighters, "we wouldn't have survived until today," one evacuee told AP.