sisters and mothers of Ukrainian fighters trapped in Mariupol have come to Kyiv
to plead with the government to do more to get the men out. They
say they’re even ready to act as a human shield, if that helps evacuate the men
soldiers are under siege on the territory of the Azovstal steel plant, a vast
area which Vladimir Putin recently ordered Russian troops to surround so that “a gnat couldn’t get through”. It’s
still under heavy fire.
fighters’ relatives say the men are exhausted, dirty and hungry with food and
water supplies running out. The families’ big worry is that stop-start talks
with Moscow about evacuating the plant are focusing more on the fate of
civilians than soldiers.
“When they talk about green corridors or extraction, they
talk about civilians not military, and I am really worried. The military are
also people,” Olga told me.
“They’re in the real hell there, and it’s so much worse than
She shows me photos of her husband in uniform but doesn’t
want me to identify him.
“The [soldiers] have been [defending] the whole Ukraine and
even Europe for two months now, and they deserve to come back alive,” she says.
She doesn’t trust Russian forces to take the Ukrainian
soldiers alive if they surrendered.
Another woman, Natalia, worries about her brother, Artyom,
“We shouldn’t divide soldiers and civilians: they are all our
Ukrainians. They should all live. It’s not our fault we were attacked,” Natalia
women are urging the authorities to step-up pressure for a humanitarian
corridor for all those trapped in Mariupol. But
they stress that time is running out.
number holed-up in Mariupol is unclear but it’s thought to be hundreds,
including some children.