Ukraine war: Heartbroken wives and mothers of Azovstal garrison say heroic battle is almost over | world news

The wives and mothers of the Azovstal garrison besieged by Ukraine say their heroic battle is almost over.

A small force of Ukrainians holds out against the Russians at the sprawling Azovstal steel plant for 80 days, but now appears to be close to the end.

“My husband is in real hell,” Natalya Zarytska told Sky News. “He has lost more than 20 kilos. He looks very bad and is in a terrible condition.”

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She married Bohdan online in April as the siege continued.

“I think this is the end,” she said.

“This is his last picture. Here his face is yellow, he has lost over 20 pounds.”

She talked about the last time she had contact with him a week ago.

“He said the ring around Azovstal is thinning and the end will be soon.”

When asked if she thinks she will see him again, she replied: “Yes, I hope so. In my head I think there is no chance, but in my heart I feel that we can save them.”

Wives of Ukrainian Azov soldiers currently detained at the Azovstal iron and steel plant in Mariupol, attending the weekly general audience held by Pope Francis at the Vatican

Other important developments:
• President Zelenskyy says talks with Russia about removing injured defenders from Azovstal plant in Mariupol were “very complex”
• Russian fighter jets participated in exercises in the Baltic Sea, Interfax reported
• Russia says it will take appropriate precautions if NATO deploys nuclear weapons and infrastructure close to its border
• Ukraine stores hundreds of dead Russian soldiers in a refrigerated train to return to their families
• US think tank believes Russia has lost battle for second largest city in Ukraine

Yulia Tarasenko showed a photo of her husband Oleksandr in better times.

They met at a checkpoint in 2016, both serving with the border guard, and have a three-year-old son.

Her eyes filled with tears as she spoke of her desperation to see him again.

“Like any woman I would cry, I miss him so much,” she said. “It’s a big tragedy for me and for my family. We have a great relationship for us, it’s been apart for such a long time. He always texted me, ‘Honey, I have to come back to be with you’ .”

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Ukraine War: Azov Battalion Fighter Says ‘Maybe Our Last’ Every Day in Mariupol

‘He knows I’m waiting for him’

The wives and mothers gathered in Kiev to appeal through the press to world leaders to intervene and bring the fighters back. They urged China’s Xi Jinping to take the lead.

Among them, Svetlana gave only her first name. Her son is in Azovstal. Unexpectedly, she told me that she will see him again.

She said, “Of course. I have to see him. He’s my son and he has to come back. He knows I’m waiting for him. Of course, without a doubt. I have no doubts.”

But the chances of Ukrainian fighters coming out of the steel factory are getting smaller and smaller.

The Ukrainians have used the huge labyrinthine complex to evade capture

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Russia has so far rejected all attempts to negotiate safe passage and a way out. Vladimir Putin told his defense minister that not even a fly should escape from the steel mill.

Turkey has offered to accommodate the fighters if they can gain safe passage, but his efforts have been rebuffed by Moscow.

The siege of Azovstal has prevented Russia from claiming full control of Mariupol. Without it, it has not been able to take a single major Ukrainian city by force.

The Ukrainians have used the vast labyrinthine complex to evade capture and defeat, despite being outnumbered.

They have lasted longer than many expected, but the despair of their loved ones is a sign that their extraordinary struggle is soon to come to an end.

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