Since April 18, Azov has released several videos that focus on civilians who say they are trapped at the plant, and feature mostly women and children. “I want everyone who sees this video to help us create this green corridor, to help us leave here,” said one mother holding her toddler in a video released on April 24, when Ukraine was observing Orthodox Easter. “Safely. Alive. The civilians and the soldiers.”
While Azov is a party to the conflict, The Times has previously verified footage released by the group. In the recently shared videos, Azov soldiers pass out treats to children and converse with adults. The relationship between the soldiers and the people who appear on camera, and the circumstances under which these images were produced, are unclear.
Graphic pictures shared on April 26 on social media accounts related to the regiment showed injured people lying on stretchers on a concrete floor, in what was said to be a field hospital within the steel plant.
Two days later, Azov uploaded a video to its social media channels of what it said was the aftermath of Russian strikes on a field hospital inside Azovstal. The footage showed about two dozen people, some of them wearing casts and bandages, sitting inside a dim, hazy room. A man with a headlight is seen digging through rubble. Another one is holding a plastic bottle in his shaky hand and sobbing.
“The strike was made on the area which contains the heavily wounded,” Mikhail Vershinin, head of the Donetsk Regional Patrol Police, said in a voice memo from inside the plant. “People are buried under rubble, some have died. There are wounded — wounded on top of the wounds they already had.”
Russia-Ukraine War: Key Developments
Russian oil embargo. European Union countries are likely to approve a phased embargo on Russian oil, sealing a long-postponed measure that has divided the bloc’s members and highlighted their dependence on Russian energy sources. The ambassadors expect to give their final approval by the end of the week, E.U. officials said.
The Azov regiment was initially created in May 2014 as the Azov Battalion, named for the body of water where Mariupol and its now-destroyed port are located, to defend the city when it came under attack by pro-Moscow forces. At the time, it was known for its nationalist, far-right members, which has been used by the Kremlin to justify its military campaign as having “antifascist” aims.
The group’s controversial reputation lingers, and though it still has some nationalist members, analysts say the unit, now called the Azov regiment, has evolved since its was incorporated into the regular combat forces of the Ukrainian military.
Some troops have been inside the plant since March 1, Captain Palamar told The Times.
Maria Zolkina, a Ukrainian political analyst who works at the Democratic Initiatives Foundation, said the regiment’s leadership made a concerted decision to go public with their pleas for evacuation and extraction because they felt they had run out of alternatives.