Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine, Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories Iryna Vereshchuk stressed the need to ensure that the siege of the Azovstal stronghold in Mariupol does not become a military tragedy of the 21st century.
The official spoke on the French TV channel LCI, according to the Government portal, Ukrinform reports.
"I believe we must do absolutely everything so that the tragedy of Azovstal doesn’t remain in war history textbooks as the greatest tragedy of the 21st century. We need a humanitarian corridor to start a dialogue. And if it happens, people seeking to be rescued will get that chance. That is what depends on Russia, and that is what is currently being negotiated. Only then can we talk about any steps beyond that," Vereshchuk said.
At the same time, the senior official stated that humanitarian corridors are currently very difficult to set up, as Russia does not want to cooperate in evacuations.
"In fact, Russia doesn’t want any evacuations. They plan to destroy everyone and everything. Only you, dear journalists, the international community, the peoples of the civilized world, are not allowing this to happen! Your focus is on Azovstal, and this prevents the aggressor from bombing and destroying everyone there. And this is our common cause – not to allow the killing of people who can’t defend themselves," said Vice PM.
As Ukrinform reported earlier, Ukraine has offered Russia to exchange severely wounded Azovstal defenders for Russian POWs, according to standard rules for POW swaps.
According to Iryna Vereshchuk, it is currently impossible to unblock Azovstal by military means. Azovstal's defenders do not intend to surrender, while the Russians do not agree to the "extraction" procedure.
On May 7, Vereshchuk announced that all women, children, and the elderly had been evacuated from the Azovstal steelworks, and that the civilian evacuation part of the Mariupol humanitarian operation had been completed. After that, the leader of the "DPR" Denis Pushilin said that the Russian forces had their hands untied, which was followed by even more brutal attacks on the stronghold.
The Russians have been constantly shelling the metallurgical plant with all kinds of weapons, including warplanes and naval artillery, also repeatedly trying to storm the premises. The Ukrainian military, including several hundred wounded, is defending the site. There is an acute shortage of medicines, and the wounded are dying in agony.