The humanitarian operation to rescue the defenders of Mariupol blocked in the territory of the Azovstal steelworks is ongoing. The authorities are working on its next stages.

“In the interests of saving lives, 52 severely wounded Ukrainian service members were evacuated yesterday. After their condition stabilises, we will exchange them for Russian prisoners of war,” Deputy Prime Minister – Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine Iryna Vereshchuk said.

According to official sources, the wounded were taken by bus to a hospital in Novoazovsk, a temporarily occupied town in the Donetsk region. They will be provided with the necessary medical care.

As the Chief Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine reports, another 211 Ukrainian soldiers were taken through a humanitarian corridor to the village of Olenivka as part of the rescue operation.

“The exchange procedure will be carried out to return the Ukrainian heroes as soon as possible. As for the defenders who still stay in the territory of Azovstal, our state takes all necessary rescue measures,” the statement reads.

The Ukrainian command emphasises that the defenders of Mariupol made it possible to get the vitally important time to accumulate reserves, regroup and mobilise forces, and receive help from the allies.

“The defenders of Mariupol fully implemented all tasks set by the command. Unfortunately, to date, Ukraine cannot unblock Azovstal by military means. The main task for Ukraine and the whole free world now is to save the lives of Ukrainian defenders,” the Defence Ministry’s Chief Directorate of Intelligence stressed.

In his video address, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky also underscored that the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations took part in rescuing the Ukrainian military.

“We hope that we will be able to save the lives of our guys. I want to emphasise: Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive. This is our principle. I think that every adequate person will understand these words,” the Head of State noted.

He added that Ukraine maintained the utmost diplomatic activity in other areas in the interests of the state.

Bohdan Marusyak

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