Hundreds of defenders of the Azovstal steel plant in southern Mariupol have surrendered to Kremlin forces, including a senior commander of the Azov Regiment, news reports said on Thursday.
RF-controlled news platforms late on May 18 reported Sviatoslav Palamar, second in command of the Azov National Guard Regiment, walked out of Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) positions at 21:00 to be taken into custody by Russian Federation (RF) troops. In past video statements Palamar had said Azov intended to fight to the death.
At least 1,750 Ukrainian fighters have laid down arms since a Tuesday agreement between UAF and RF negotiators to end the steel mill’s siege, reported Dmitriy Steshin, correspondent for the Kremlin-controlled Komsomolskaya Pravda news platform.
Ukrainian officials did not state precise numbers of Ukrainian troops having quit fighting and gone into RF custody, but confirmed the surrender process was continuing peacefully. Presidential Advisor Oleksiy Arestovych in a late May 18 television interview, said a large proportion of the Mariupol defenders had surrendered, and that talks were in progress on terms for the last UAF fighters still in the steel factory to cease resistance.
Denys Pushilin, head of the Donetsk People’s Republic, told RF television that injured UAF service members would receive treatment in a hospital in Novoazovsk, while non-injured soldiers would be held in RF prisons in Taganrog and Rostov. RF authorities will interrogate all POWs and prosecute all persons suspected of war crimes, he said.
Fighting over the past 24 hours flared up across at locations scattered across the front. No major advances or retreats were reported by either side.
A British Ministry of Defence (MoD) intelligence estimate made public on May 19 said RF units were continuing to press in selected sectors but, due to limited ability to field large forces and UAF skill at hitting them with artillery, RF assaults at present are limited in scale, focusing on an individual village or a tactically-important road intersection.
Ukraine Army General Staff (AGS) in a situation estimate made public in the morning of May 19 said that RF units were pushing hard on three sides of the village Lyman, where UAF forces are battling to hang on to a bridgehead over the Siviersky Donets River; and around Popasna, from which UAF forces recently retreated after more than a month of fighting.
Both the AGS statement and RF state-controlled media said heavy exchanges of fire also were taking place around the city Severodonetsk, a key RF objective in its Donbas campaign.
The Kremlin’s stated objectives for its ongoing Donbas offensive are full RF control of Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk regions, and annihilation of all UAF forces. Launched in late April, the RF assaults have stalled and at times been badly hurt by tough UAF defenses, particularly from artillery strikes controlled by drones.
The MoD estimate said RF forces in coming days would face increasing difficulty developing offensive momentum, because of heavy losses particularly in critical equipment like assault bridges and reconnaissance drones, shortages of infantry, and increasingly poor troop morale.
According to a Ukrainian May 19 Defense Ministry (UDM) estimate, during the previous 24 hours UAF units repelled 16 RF attacks, destroying 8 tanks, 11 infantry fighting vehicles, 4 armored cars, six trucks, and one fighter jet.
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