Russia’s defense ministry said Tuesday that 265 Ukrainian soldiers, including several dozen wounded, surrendered at the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Ukraine’s port city of Mariupol.
“Over the past 24 hours, 265 militants laid down their arms and surrendered, including 51 heavily wounded,” the ministry said in a briefing.
It added that those in need of medical care were transferred to a hospital in the town of Novoazovsk.
Last month Moscow claimed control of Mariupol after a weeks-long siege, but hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers remained holed up in underground tunnels beneath the huge Azovstal industrial zone, blocked by Russian troops.
Ukraine’s defense ministry said late on Monday that 264 Ukrainian fighters were evacuated to Russia-controlled territory, including 53 “heavily wounded.”
Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Ganna Malyar said they would be subject to an “exchange procedure.”
Meanwhile, in the Ukrainian town of New York, a four-year-old recognized the low whistle of the Russian artillery shell long before his mother had a chance to grab his hand.
“Here comes one,” the boy said matter-of-factly a few long moments before the blast of an exploding building echoed across the small town with the big American name.
His exhausted 28-year-old mother did not even bother to duck.
Valeria Kolakevych has heard so many shells whizz overhead in the third month of Russia’s offensive that she knows instinctively how close each will land while it is still in the air.
“It was terrible,” Kolakevych said, without skipping a beat in her story about a round of fire that had badly damaged four neighbouring houses the previous night.
“And the most terrible thing is that there was nothing there – just civilians,” she said as another artillery shell blew something up near the upper end of the hilly street.
The second impact forced her 11-year-old daughter to utter a soft yelp and cover her ears. The little boy followed his sister’s lead and hunched closer to the ground.
Kolakevych took her children’s hands and walked off as more blasts rang out from fields that once made up the de facto border between government territory and lands overseen by Moscow-backed insurgents in Ukraine’s industrial east.
Russia’s February 24 invasion has reignited fighting along fronts that froze over once Ukraine’s eight-year separatist conflict in the east settled into a dreary stalemate after claiming 14,000 lives.
Russia initially prioritised seizing Kyiv and Ukraine’s second city of Kharkiv in the north.
Setbacks in both have put the onus on Russian and pro-Kremlin separatist forces to break through from a southern flank that stretches from Crimea to the destroyed city of Mariupol further east.
This has spelled trouble for New York – a town of 10,000 mostly Russian speakers that attempted a fresh start last year by dropping its Soviet name Novgorodske and adopting one first chosen by its German settlers in the 1800s.
Locals say there’s no record of how the town first got its name. It was changed under the Soviet Union in 1951 and back again last year after an activist campaign.
Residents say artillery fire began pelting New York a month ago and has grown heavier by the day.
“It is getting really bad. There was a bit of shooting here and there before but it did not really bother us,” seamstress Valentyna Kanebalotskaya said while moving her belongings to her daughter’s house in a slightly safer part of town.
“But now they are shooting at us from the west, east and south,” the 71-year-old said.