Russia’s defence ministry said on Wednesday that 1,026 soldiers of Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade, including 162 officers, had surrendered in the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.
According to Reuters, Mariupol, which has been encircled by Russian troops for weeks, has seen the fiercest fighting and the most comprehensive destruction since Russia invaded on Feb. 24.
The Russian defence ministry said 151 wounded Ukrainian soldiers were treated on the spot and taken to Mariupol’s city hospital.
Earlier on Wednesday, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who says his forces are playing a major role in Russia’s battle for Mariupol, said more than 1,000 Ukrainian marines had surrendered. He urged remaining forces holed up in the Azovstal steel mill to surrender.
The main Sea of Azov port is the biggest target in the eastern Donbas region that Moscow now calls the focus of its campaign, and if captured would be the first major city to fall since the war began. Its capture would help secure a land passage between separatist-held eastern areas and Crimea which Russia seized and annexed in 2014.
“In the town of Mariupol, near the Ilyich Iron and Steel Works, as a result of successful offensives by Russian armed forces and Donetsk People’s Republic militia units, 1,026 Ukrainian soldiers of the 36th Marine Brigade voluntarily laid down arms and surrendered,” the ministry said in a statement.
Reuters could not independently confirm the surrender. Ukrainian defence ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said he had no information about it, andthere was no immediate comment from the Ukrainian president’s office or the Ukrainian general staff.
On Monday, a post on the Ukrainian marine brigade’s Facebook page had said the unit was preparing for a final battle in Mariupol that would end in death or capture as its troops had run out of ammunition.
“Today will probably be the ultimate battle, as there is no ammo left,” said the post. “Beyond that: hand to hand fighting. Beyond that, for some death, for others capture.”
Some Ukrainian officials said at the time that the post may have been fake, and that troops were still holding out.
Reuters journalists accompanying Russian-backed separatists in Mariupol on Tuesday saw flames rising from the Azovstal complex.