Nearly 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers have surrendered at Azovstal, says Russian defense minister

Uliana Pavlova and Tim Lister

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has said that almost 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers have surrendered at the Azovstal plant in Mariupol.

In remarks carried by Russian state media Friday, Shoigu said: “The blocking of the Azovstal plant continues … Nationalists are actively surrendering to captivity. At the moment, 1,908 people laid down their arms.” CNN cannot independently verify these figures.

Azovstal was the last holdout in otherwise Russian-occupied Mariupol and become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance under relentless Russian bombardment.

The previous figure given by the Russian Defense Ministry Thursday was 1,730 Ukrainian soldiers. However, there has been no evidence of more people leaving the plant since Thursday.

Shoigu also said that 177 civilians had been evacuated from the plant but he appears to have been talking about the total that emerged last week.

“Everyone was provided with qualified medical and psychological assistance,” Shoigu said.

“I vouch that the Russian armed forces are doing everything to prevent deaths among the civilian population. Since the beginning of the special military operation [Moscow’s euphemism for its war in Ukraine], more than 1.37 million people have been evacuated from the dangerous regions of the people’s republic [the pro-Russian self-declared separatist regions], as well as from Ukraine to Russia,” Shoigu said.

That figure can’t be independently confirmed. Ukraine has alleged that more than a million people have been forcibly deported from parts of the country that were under its control before the Russian invasion began.

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