On Wednesday, Ukrainians in the capital were proud of how armed fighters at a steel mill in southern Ukraine had resisted Russian troops for weeks, but expressed fear for them now that they were held captive.
Russia says hundreds of Ukrainian fighters surrendered this week at the beleaguered Azovstal factory in the port city of Mariupol following battles that have become emblematic of Ukraine’s fierce resistance to Russian invasion.
The government in kyiv hopes to exchange captured Ukrainian fighters for Russian prisoners of war, but Moscow has not yet confirmed whether there will be an exchange.
“I can’t imagine how they did it. As I see it, there are normal people and then there are these guys,” added Maksym Malyovanyi, a 23-year-old set designer in the capital Kyiv who was amazed at their bravery and endurance.
Andriy, a 37-year-old resident working in security, said the Mariupol fighters were “supermen”.
“It was the stronghold of people who did impossible things,” he said of Azovstal, while encouraging other countries to advocate for the return of fighters to Ukraine.
The developments at the steelworks came as supplies dwindled and conditions for the injured deteriorated.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said negotiations were underway with Moscow over what the future would hold for the last soldiers inside Azovstal.
“There is no other way. Their lives must be saved. Some of them are already injured… there is no other option,” Bohdan told AFP. , a 46-year-old Kyiv resident, asked about the negotiations.
“Forever in History”
On Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said 959 Ukrainian soldiers had turned up at the steel plant this week, 80 of them injured and about to receive medical treatment at a hospital in Russian-held territory.
Ukraine said 260 fighters left the factory on Monday in what it calls an evacuation operation, but did not give updated figures.
It is also unclear how many fighters remain inside the steel mill and whether they also plan to lay down their arms.
Video footage and images posted to social media this week showed a stream of soldiers leaving the steelworks, most of whom appeared heavily bearded, emaciated or injured, with several being carried in makeshift stretchers.
Kyiv residents who spoke to AFP said Russia could not be trusted to treat soldiers humanely.
“Yesterday I heard on Russian television… that they might kill them because they think they are Nazis. I’m scared,” said 23-year-old Oleksandr Gerasymenko.
Earlier this week, the Ukrainian General Staff said the Mariupol troops “completed their combat task” and that the main objective now was to “save the lives of the personnel”.
Holding their ground at the Azovstal plant, Mariupol’s defenders bogged down countless Russian troops and prevented them from seizing the southern city of Zaporizhzhia, according to a statement on Facebook.
“They are forever in history,” he added.
Last month, the Kremlin announced that its forces were in control of Mariupol after a week-long siege of the port city.
But even as Russia claimed to control the region, hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers continued to resist from the underground tunnels winding under the vast industrial zone of Azovstal.
Kyiv’s defense ministry said it would do “everything necessary” to rescue the remaining personnel at Azovstal, but admitted there was no military option available.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)