While hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers have left the Azovstal plant this week, there are likely still hundreds inside the besieged complex on the edge of Mariupol — and they appear to include some senior commanders.
One of them is Maj. Bohdan Krotevych, chief of staff of the Azov Regiment. Over the past few days, he has posted on his social media accounts frequently, talking about military tactics and the fight ahead for Ukraine, but not about what might happen to him.
In a post Wednesday, he suggested that he would not be surrendering, saying that "the fight continues."
Russia's defense ministry said over 1,700 Ukrainian soldiers have surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol since May 16. Meanwhile, a Ukrainian military official said the evacuation of the plant continues, and he believes Russia will uphold its word to treat soldiers according to international law. The International Committee of the Red Cross said it has registered hundreds of Ukrainian prisoners of war who have left the plant.
In one Instagram post, Krotevych told his fellow fighters: "The war is not over, the full-scale war has just begun. You will have to become commanders and take control, or run away and then you will suffer even greater losses."
Krotevych said that "Russia, like the United States, was accustomed to fighting against much weaker countries, and every problem was solved by massive artillery shelling or air raids. We are weaker in military potential, but the self-confidence of the enemy is our trump card."
Another one of the Azov Regiment officers still in the steel plant issued a short video statement Thursday evening.
Sviatoslav Palamar, Azov’s deputy commander, said: "My command and I are on the territory of the Azovstal plant. An operation is underway. I will not give any details. I’m grateful to the whole world and to Ukraine for support. I will be seeing you!"
Palamar provided no further indication of what the operation might be.
Some Russian politicians have proposed that Azov commanders be tried as war criminals if they are detained. Russian state media frequently refers to them as "neo-Nazis" and militant nationalists.
Kostan Nechyporenko contributed reporting to this post.