Relatives of Ukrainian fighters at the Azovstal steel plant staged protests on Thursday demanding renewed efforts to rescue those trapped inside the plant.
Demonstrators marched through central kyiv holding banners and chanting slogans such as “save Mariupol defenders, save Azovstal”, “glory to the heroes of Mariupol” and “save the army of Azovstal”.
Mariupol, a port on the Sea of Azov, endured the most destructive fighting of the war in Ukraine. kyiv says it is likely that tens of thousands of people have been killed there since the start of the Russian invasion and that the Azovstal steelworks is the last part of the city still held by Ukrainian fighters.
Many civilians were evacuated from the sprawling factory last week under a deal with Russia, but there was no deal for free fighters, many of whom are injured and face a dwindling supplies and food.
Photographs released Wednesday show wounded fighters trapped in the steelworks.
Fighters from the Azov Battalion said their comrades were living in unsanitary conditions “with open wounds bandaged with remnants of non-sterile bandages, without the necessary medicine or even food.”
Maria Zimareva, whose relative is a fighter from the Azov battalion, told Reuters: “I want all the defenders who are there to go home so that they can continue a normal life with their children and loved ones.”
“The conditions they are in are horrific,” said Mariupol resident Alina Nesterenko. “I have no words to describe them. That’s why we are here. We beg, we implore in every way possible, we ask that our loved ones be saved.
Protests also took place outside a hotel in Zaporizhzhia on Wednesday, NPR reported.
“They are abandoning our soldiers,” reportedly said Yaroslava Ivantsova, whose husband is one of the Ukrainian fighters. “We can’t let that happen.”
Ukrainian officials say around 1,000 fighters are resisting in Azovstal’s many underground tunnels, hundreds of whom are seriously injured and need to be evacuated urgently. The factory is under heavy fire from the Russians.
The wives of some of the fighters this week called on Pope Francis to intervene with Russian President Vladimir Putin to allow their husbands to flee the factory to a mediating country.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Thursday authorities were working with the Red Cross and the United Nations to facilitate evacuations.
“We have started a new round of negotiations around a roadmap for an (evacuation) operation. And we will start with those who are seriously injured,” the minister told 1+1 television.
“We want a signed document on how an evacuation would take place in Azovstal,” she said, adding that Turkey was also acting as an intermediary.
The country has offered to host talks between the presidents of Russia and Ukraine.
The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we launched our first campaign to welcome refugees during the war in Syria in 2015. Today, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition to Following the unfolding crisis in Ukraine, we are asking the government to go further and faster to ensure the delivery of aid.
To learn more about our Welcome to Refugees campaign, Click here. To sign the petition Click here. If you would like to donate, please Click here for our GoFundMe page.