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Russian-backed Donbas separatist forces on Thursday said they will not agree to any deal to extract Ukrainian troops holed up in the Mariupol Azovstal steel plant.
Leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic, a separatist group in south-eastern Ukraine, said Russian troops were continuing their assault on the steel plant after civilian evacuations were completed nearly a week ago, Ukrainian news outlets reported.
UKRAINIAN MILITARY CAPTAIN SPEAKS OUT FROM MARIUPOL STEEL MINE ‘CATACOMBS’ SURROUNDED BY RUSSIANS
“Everything is going smoothly there,” Denys Pushylin reportedly told Donbas News. “Everything is clear. There are no civilians, so our units can bring this situation to a logical conclusion with a clear head, with clear calculations.”
Pushylin called on the Ukrainian resistance fighters to “lay down their arms and head to a tribunal.”
“This is no extradition,” he added, claiming that occupying forces want the Ukrainian soldiers to commit to an “honorable surrender.”
Ukrainian troops in the tunnels of the steel plant – the last stronghold for the resistance in Mariupol – have said they will not surrender to the invading Russian forces and have called on Ukrainian officials to facilitate their escape.
MARIUPOL STEEL PLANT: ALL WOMEN, CHILDREN AND THE ELDERLY EVACUATED, OFFICIAL SAYS
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced Saturday that the humanitarian mission in Mariupol had been completed and that all women, children and the elderly had been successfully evacuated.
But it remains unclear if civilian men were barred from the evacuation process.
Vereshchuk said Thursday that a prisoner swap for the severely wounded servicemen in Mariupol had been proposed in exchange for captured Russian prisoners of war.
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“There is no agreement yet. Negotiations are ongoing,” she said in a Telegram post. “As of now, it is impossible to unblock Azovstal by military means.”
Vereshchuk said Kyiv was working on several “options” in an attempt to save its service members.
“None of them are perfect. But we are not looking for an ideal option, but a working one,” she added.