Praising Ukrainian Troops' 82-Day Struggle In Azovstal Mariupol, Presidential Advisor: Changing The Course Of The War
Evacuation of Ukrainian soldiers from Azovstal, Mariupol. (Twitter/@StateOfUkraine)

JAKARTA - Ukraine praises its troops who defended and defended the strategic city of Mariupol for almost three months, resisting Russian onslaught and being able to change the course of the war.

More than 250 fighters, some of them seriously injured, have been evacuated after spending weeks in bunkers and tunnels under the sprawling Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol where they have little food, water, medicine or other supplies.

The resistance rendered Russia unable to mobilize its forces in other battlefronts, a factor Ukraine believes thwarted Russian advances in other areas.

"Because Mariupol withdrew the troops of the Russian Federation for 82 days, the operation to seize the east and south (Ukraine) was stopped. This changed the course of the war," said adviser to Ukrainian President Mykhailo Podolyak, quoted by Reuters on May 18.

Full control of Mariupol would give Russia command of a land route linking the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow captured in 2014, with mainland Russia and areas of eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russian separatists.

Earlier, President Volodymyr Zelensky described Mariupol's defenders as heroes who must stay alive. The Ukrainian military says they are 'heroes of our time.'

"They are forever in history," the General Staff of the Armed Forces wrote on Facebook, adding that the defenses of Azovstal and Mariupol had prevented Russia from transferring about 20.000 personnel to fight in other areas.

"We are getting some much needed time to build up our reserves, regroup and get help from our partners."

Ukraine believes tens of thousands of people have died in Mariupol. The city is now an urban desert, with the local mayor likening it to a 'medieval ghetto'.

Mariupol's last line of defense was led by the Azov Regiment, which Russia describes as a neo-Nazi group that hates Russia. Several fighters remained at the steelworks on Tuesday.

Kyiv said the Azov militia had been incorporated into the Ukrainian National Guard, the military wing of the interior ministry and had been reformed away from radical nationalist origins, having nothing to do with politics.

Separately, underscoring the differing perceptions of Mariupol fighters in Russia and Ukraine, a Russian lawmaker on Tuesday called for the evacuated fighters to receive the death penalty.

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