Maj. Serhii Volyna, commander of Ukraine’s 36th Separate Marine Brigade, spoke by phone with CNN from the besieged city of Mariupol Tuesday evening and requested that a third country provide evacuation for troops and civilians trapped in the Azovstal steel plant under heavy Russian bombardment.
“I have a statement to the world,” Volyna said. “It may be my last statement, because we have only a few days, or even hours, left. We appeal to world leaders to apply the extraction procedure to the military of the Mariupol garrison, to the civilians who are with us here at the plant. We ask you to take us to the territory of a third country and provide us with security.”
Ukrainian forces inside the besieged city have consolidated around the massive Azovstal steel factory.
Ukrainian officials have said hundreds of civilians are sheltering in the basements of the massive steelworks. A Mariupol police official told CNN food and water supplies were dwindling amid heavy bombardment.
Asked how an evacuation might be facilitated, Volyna said, “This should be at the level of agreements. If we talk about practical application, it could be a ship with helicopters, for example, that could pick us up. Or an international humanitarian mission that can come to us and guarantee our security and accompany us on the way to the state that will make such commitments.”
Volyna described the situation at the plant as “critical,” with a large number of wounded troops and limited medical care.
“We are completely surrounded,” he said. “There are about 500 wounded military, it is very difficult to provide them with medical care. They literally rot. There are civilians on the territory. They are also suffering from explosions, blasts on them, next to them. They [the Russians] use heavy aircraft bombs against us and strike with artillery.”
“This happens all the time. The city is destroyed. Enemy groups outnumber us dozens of times, they have a complete advantage in air, artillery, equipment, manpower. We fight to the last, but we have very little time left,” he continued.
The Ukrainian commander estimated that there were “hundreds of civilians” sheltering on the territory of the plant.
“We appeal to absolutely all world leaders: Whoever will be able to make such commitments, whoever will be able to succeed in the short term in agreeing on such a procedure,” he said. “We know that there are some developments and talks with the Turkish side that it is acting as a guarantor. Probably the United States, because we believe that this is a very powerful state with a strong leader, [President Joe] Biden, and that he can personally resolve this issue in the shortest possible time. Or this issue can be resolved with his help in a short time.”
Volyna declined to comment on the number of military holding out at Azovstal.
“If the world hears us, if the world leaders hear us, we very much hope so, and the extraction procedure will be carried out, then everyone will understand the quantitative composition of the people who were in captivity,” he said.