An operation to rescue Ukrainian fighters trapped in the Azovstal steelworks, the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol, got under way today, according to Ukraine, who believes these soldiers have ended their mission. Ukraine confirmed last week that over 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers, of whom 600 wounded, were at this industrial complex, whose underground tunnels stretch for kilometres. The port city of Mariupol is now in Russian hands, after being under siege from the first day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24th February. Owing to its location near the Sea of Azov, Mariupol is a strategic link between Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, and the Donbas mining region, in the east of Ukraine, where there are two pro-Russian break-away republics and where most Russian attacks are now concentrated. It is not clear yet if the evacuation of the Azovstal steel works is the end of the defence of Mariupol.

Eugen Cojocariu, Radio Romania International