Western partners participated in operation to evacuate Mariupol defenders - Zelenskyy

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Denys Karlovskyy - Friday, 20 May 2022, 21:07

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that the operation to secure the safe evacuation of Mariupol defenders has been carried out with the participation of Western partners. However, the details concerning this operation have not yet been disclosed.

Source: excerpt from Zelenskyy’s interview during the national 24/7 newscast, which will be broadcast on 21 May

Quote from Zelenskyy: "To date, all civilians - those who had been besieged at the plant (Azovstal - ed.) - have been evacuated. The evacuation of all other civilians who were near the plant or in other parts of Mariupol started a long time ago.

Civilians have been evacuated. Medics have been evacuated. The seriously wounded have been evacuated, as well as those injured.

At this very moment, as we are talking here, I know what is also happening (in Mariupol - ed.). In the near future, we are not even talking days, everyone will be evacuated.

The structure is complex. It was agreed that the breaking of the blockade would be conducted by intermediaries, namely Western partners. I negotiated with Turkey, Switzerland, Israel, and France at first, because of the relationship the leaders (of these countries - ed.) have with the Russian Federation. [It happened] when we saw that it was impossible to break [the blockade] by military means.

Our military personnel received a signal that they had every right to leave and save their lives."

Details: Zelenskyy claims that he has persistently requested in talks with every leader of the partner countries to provide weapons to break the blockade of Mariupol by military means.

According to the President, some soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine were ready to break the blockade of  Mariupol militarily, despite the risks, if partner countries provided heavy weapons.

Background:

  • In the same interview, Zelenskyy said that during the Russian blockade of Mariupol defenders at the Azovstal steelworks, the Ukrainian command had sent helicopters with provisions, ammunition and medicine, but 90% of the helicopter pilots had died in the line of duty.

  • In the afternoon on 20 May, the commander of the Azov National Guard Regiment, Denys Prokopenko, shared a video message in which he assured that they were informed about the course of the evacuation operation. The commanders at Azovstal are currently in the process of evacuating the bodies of fallen heroes so that their relatives can bury them with honours. On 19 May, Captain Sviatoslav Palamar, Deputy Commander, shared a similar video address.

  • On 19 May, the Associated Press released footage of Ukrainian military personnel leaving Azovstal.

  • Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported that they have registered all Ukrainian military personnel evacuated from Azovstal.

The Russian Ministry of Defence stated that 959 Ukrainian soldiers had left Azovstal. Deputy Minister of Defence of Ukraine, Hanna Malyar urged to disregard Russian statements about the evacuation process for Mariupol defenders, because such statements are designed for domestic consumers and misinformation.