Chris Lange, FISM News
Ukrainian officials said 53 seriously-wounded Ukrainian fighters were evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel factory in Mariupol following days of tense negotiations, according to multiple reports.
Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said the men were taken to a hospital in Novoazovsk, east of Mariupol, where they were said to have received medical care, while another 211 soldiers were evacuated to Olenivka via a humanitarian corridor. Both cities are Russian-controlled, and it remains to be seen if Moscow will consider the men to be prisoners of war, though the Russian Defense Ministry characterized the evacuation effort as a surrender.
The troops were likely taken to the Moscow-backed regions as part of a deal with the Kremlin. Ukrainian officials said they will continue efforts to rescue an unknown number of fighters who remained behind. The Azov battalion defenders represented the last holdout in the devastated port city that is now firmly in Russia’s hands.
Ukrainian officials said the men had “completed their mission,” avoiding the word “surrender.”
“The work to bring the guys home continues, and it requires delicacy and time,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said of the evacuation effort, adding that the agreement to evacuate the soldiers to separatist-controlled territory was done to save the lives of the fighters who endured weeks of intense Russian assaults in bunkers and tunnels beneath the plant.
“We hope that we will be able to save the lives of our guys,” Zelenskyy said. “Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes to be alive. It’s our principle.”
Nearly 20 Ukrainian deaths reported
Elsewhere in the Donbas, at least 10 people were killed in the eastern city of Sievierdonetsk following heavy shelling by Russian forces. In the Donetsk region, Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko reported that nine civilians were killed in shelling there as well.
The chairman of the Lviv Regional Military Administration said the Russians fired on military infrastructure in the Yavoriv district, an area less than 10 miles from the Polish border.
Meanwhile, as the war enters its 12th week, both sides continue fighting village-by-village in the Donbas, where Moscow has shifted its offensive in recent weeks after failing to take the capital of Kyiv. Russia’s advance, however, has been stymied amid fierce Ukrainian resistance that has thus far prevented the Kremlin from taking any significant territory in Ukraine’s industrial heartland.
— ISW (@TheStudyofWar) May 16, 2022
A senior U.S. defense official said Ukraine has managed to push Kremlin forces to within a half-mile to 2.5 miles of Russia’s border.
“You’re already seeing the Ukrainians being willing to go on the counteroffensive in the Donbas [region of Ukraine]. They are taking back some towns that the Russians have taken in the past,” the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said in a press briefing Monday. Howitzers supplied by the U.S. and other Western nations “are having a big impact on the battlefield,” the official said.
Russia cuts off electricity supply to Finland as it seeks NATO membership
As Finland moves closer to NATO membership, Russian energy supplier RAO Nordic Oy cut off the country’s electricity supply Saturday, citing non-payment on past bills, The Epoch Times reported.
“We are forced to note that for the volumes which have been sold on Nord Pool exchange since the 6th of May funds have not yet been credited to our bank account. This situation is exceptional and happened for the first time in over twenty years of our trading history,” RAO Nordic said in a May 13 announcement.
Sweden applies for NATO membership
Meanwhile, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said her country will be in a “vulnerable position” following its decision to apply for membership in the 30-bloc military alliance. Andersson warned her fellow citizens that Russia will likely attempt to spread disinformation in an attempt to divide the country.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, a NATO member, has so far not given any indication that he will allow Sweden and Finland to join the alliance, citing the countries’ refusal to take a firm stance against groups Turkey considers to be terrorists, including Kurdish militants. Erdogan also objects to military sanctions imposed on Turkey by both countries.
NATO applicants must meet the unanimous approval of all 30 current members before a nation can join the bloc.