ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine — Ukrainian forces are still in full control of the Azovstal steel plant in the war-battered port city of Mariupol and have repelled continuous assaults by Russian infantry even while weathering steadily intensifying air and artillery attacks, a commander of one of the Ukrainian units defending the plant said in an interview on Sunday.
Ukrainian forces are willing to leave the factory and evacuate the city if given guarantees of safe passage for themselves and hundreds of civilians, said Capt. Svyatoslav Palamar, the deputy commander of the Azov Battalion, whose fighters have been holed up at the plant since March 1.
“We are prepared to leave the city because there is nothing left to defend,” Captain Palamar said. “We consider that we’ve fulfilled our mission. But we will continue to defend it until there is an order to retreat from our military leadership. And if we are going to leave, we are going to leave with our weapons.”
Despite an order by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to halt the assault of the Azovstal factory and blockade it instead, fighting has continued, drawing significant resources from Russian forces, even as preparations are underway for a significant offensive in eastern Ukraine.
“Despite the fact that today is an important Christian holiday, they bombed the factory all night,” Captain Palamar said, adding that they have been attacked from both the land and air.