Russian forces in Mariupol seek help from Turkey

Russian forces in Mariupol seek help from Turkey

Ankara has asked the leader of marines holed up in Mariupol for help.

Sergey Volina, commander of Ukraine's 36th Marines brigade, which is still encroaching at the Azovstal steel plant in the Black Sea port-city of Mariupol, has called on Turkey s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to extract Ukrainian troops from the city.

The commander was talking to Turkish television station Haberturk TV late on Friday.

"I now call on the Turkish people and the president to launch the extraction process, and I urge Ankara to do everything possible to take the Mariupol garrison to Turkey and provide security guarantees," Volina said. After 65 days of fighting Russian forces, the marines commander admitted that his troops are in a very difficult situation. He has also revealed that some 600 wounded soldiers are buried at the steel plant.

He did not elaborate whether he was referring only to his own unit or to the Azov regiment. Volyna has also maintained that there are civilians hiding in the underground catacombs beneath the vast steel plant and there are injured among them.

Ankara has not responded to this appeal in any way. Since the beginning of Russian military action in Ukraine in late February, the Black Sea port of Mariupol has seen intense fighting. The city was encircled by Russian forces and militias of the two Donbass republics in early March.

The Ukrainian forces as well as foreign mercenaries and militants that initially holed up in the city retreated to the Azovstal plant. The site is the last pocket of resistance. The Soviet times built the facility has a huge network of underground tunnels that have been turned into a fortress by the Ukrainian forces.

On April 21, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin that Mariupol was fully under Russian control except for the Azovstal plant. The president then called off an assault on the facility and offered those who were in it a chance to surrender.

Putin outlined at that time that Russia guarantees anyone who would lay down their arms their lives, as well as decent treatment under all international norms. Moscow tried to organize humanitarian corridors for those willing to leave the Azovstal plant several times before April 21 but those attempts failed.

The Ukrainian forces, including Voluna himself, demanded that they be allowed to leave while also keeping their personal weapons through the assistance of an unnamed third party. They also maintained that surrender was not an option.

On April 22, the Russian Defense Ministry said that Ukrainian fighters and foreign mercenaries only need to raise white flags along the perimeter of Azovstal to surrender. Russia's humanitarian offer remains in force 24-7, it added. Some 2,000 Ukrainian fighters remain at the plant, according to the ministry's estimates.

Kiev still maintains that Ukrainian forces would be able to rescue the troops in Mariupol if provided with enough weapons. President Volodymyr Zelensky told the media on April 21 that there was a military way to unblock Mariupol. He said that western nations should supply Ukraine with more heavy equipment.

Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, after Ukraine s failed to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists that the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied that it was planning to take the two republics by force.