‘Fortress in a City’: Ukrainians stick to a steel plant in Mariupol

April 15 (Reuters) – Explosions erupted and smoke billowed this week from the besieged steel-producing district of Mariupol, where declining Ukrainian forces are concentrating as Russia seeks to capture its largest city.

Azovstel Iron and Steel Works, one of Europe’s largest metallurgical plants, has become an apocalyptic retouch suitable for the seven weeks of firing, numbers and encircling Ukrainian forces during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

East of the southern port, devastated by shelling for weeks, the plant is located in an industrial area of ​​11 square kilometers (4.25 square miles) overlooking the Sea of ​​Azov, which includes numerous buildings, blast furnaces and railroads. .

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“The Azovstel factory is a huge site with so many buildings that the Russians … (Ukrainian forces) could not find them,” said Ole Zhtanov, a military analyst in Kyiv.

“That’s why they (the Russians) started talking about the chemical attack, and that was the only way to get them out,” Zhdanov said.

Ukraine says it is verifying unconfirmed reports that Russia may have used chemical weapons in Mariupol. Pro-Russian separatists have denied the use of chemical weapons. read more

During peacetime, Azovstel iron and steel works emitted 4 million tons of steel, 3.5 million tons of molten metal and 1.2 million tons of rolled steel per year.

Like the city’s Illich Steel and Iron Works, Azovstel is run by Medinvest, a company controlled by Ukraine’s richest billionaire, Rinat Akhmedo.

A Russian separatist deputy commander told Russian state television on Monday that Moscow had seized 80% of the port, but that opposition had continued and that all Ukrainian forces were trying to “get out of the Azovstal factory.”

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He described the factory as “a fort in a city”.

The city’s defenders were the Ukrainian navy, motorized battalions, the National Guard Brigade and the Azov Regiment, formed by far – right nationalists, who later joined the National Guard.

It was the Azov Regiment, whose destruction was one of Moscow’s war objectives, mainly associated with Azovstall, and one of its founders, Andrei Piletsky, called it “the castle of Azov.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the invasion a “special operation” for the “militarization and annihilation of Ukraine,” but Ukraine and the West say Russia has launched an unprovoked war of aggression.

“Azov is actually in the territory of Azovstalin … these are large areas with workshops that can not be destroyed by the wind, which is why the Russians use heavy bombs,” said military analyst Sergei Skretz.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that more than 1,000 soldiers, including 162 officers from Ukraine’s 36th Marine Regiment, had surrendered in Mariupol, but Ukraine could not confirm this.

Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, later said that members of the 36th Marine Regiment were engaged in a “very dangerous maneuver” to join the Azov Regiment.

“The 36th Regiment, except for being cut to pieces, now has serious extra opportunities, basically getting a second chance,” he said.

Information is scarce due to lack of mobile reception and internet in the city. Ukraine has strict control over the number of troops that can compromise their security.

On March 20, Azov’s Biletskiy told Ukraine’s NV news site that a total of 3,000 militants in Ukraine were defending the city against 14,000 Russians.

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Difficulty in occupying

America’s private satellite company Maxar was able to spy on wars erupting from space on Tuesday.

“Smoke and fire could be seen coming from the western and eastern parts of the city and from several buildings near the Azovstal iron and steel plant – the site of ongoing wars between Russian and Ukrainian forces,” it said.

An EU security source told Reuters it was difficult to say how long the Ukrainians would be able to hold on, and that it would be difficult for Russia to occupy the entire city because of the industrial complexes. “There are underground mining systems under the steel plant.”

“Mariupol is very important to Putin because after a victory there (and the surrender of the Azov-troops) he can say that the process of ‘denunciation’ was successful,” the source added.

Mariupol’s aide to the mayor said on Wednesday that Russia plans to celebrate victory in the city on May 9, with Moscow marking the date of World War II’s victory against Nazi Germany in the Red Square.

Military analyst Zhdanov said that Ukrainian forces from the outside were unlikely to break the Russian siege.

“No one can guess how many items the guards have and how long they can keep them. But they have no choice. They are surrounded on all sides. They have to stand up to the last. If they give in, they will not do it.

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Report by Natalia Synets; Additional Report by Powell Polytech; Editing Grand McCauley

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