Ukrainian soldiers at the besieged Azovstal steel plant have vowed to keep on fighting “as long as we are alive”.
However, soldiers from the Azov regiment have refused to surrender despite being vastly outnumbered.
“We will continue to fight as long as we are alive to repel the Russian occupiers,” Captain Sviatoslav Palamar, a deputy commander of Ukraine’s Azov Regiment, told an online news conference.
“We don’t have much time, we are coming under intense shelling,” he said, pleading with the international community to help to evacuate wounded soldiers from the plant.
Illia Samoilenko, a fighter with the Azov Regiment who also took part in the virtual conference, said they still had weapons, munitions and water, and were prepared to fight as long as they must.
“We can die at any moment... Our message is don’t waste our efforts,” Mr Samoilenko said, calling on the Ukrainian government to rely more on continuing fighting against Russian forces than hopes that Moscow can be pacified by negotiations.
In a week-long operation brokered by the United Nations and the International Committee of the RedCross (ICRC), scores of civilians in the plant’s underground shelters have been evacuated.
The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that more than 300 civilians had been rescued and that authorities would now focus on trying to evacuate the wounded and medics. Other Ukrainian sources have cited different figures.
Russian-backed separatists said a total of 145 people, including 24 children, were evacuated on Sunday from Mariupol to the village of Bezimenne, about 25 miles east, in the area they control.