Ukraine steelworks defenders surrender but Kyiv vows ‘unbreakable’ spirit

Russia said Thursday that 1,730 Ukrainian soldiers had surrendered this week at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, showing some emerging on crutches after an all-out battle that has become emblematic of the nearly three-month-old war.

The number included 80 who were wounded and taken to a hospital in Russia-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine, the defence ministry in Moscow said.

The ministry released a video appearing to show the surrendered soldiers hobbling out of the sprawling plant after it was besieged for weeks. Russian troops patted them down and inspected their bags as they exited.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it had registered “hundreds of Ukrainian prisoners of war” from the plant in Mariupol, a port city levelled by Russian shelling.

But while Mariupol has fallen, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said the wider invasion was an “absolute failure” as he marked “Vyshyvanka Day”, an annual celebration of Ukrainian folk traditions.

Wearing an embroidered shirt instead of his usual military khaki top, Zelensky said on the Telegram social media platform that his people remained “strong, unbreakable, brave and free”.

Zelensky’s defiance, and his army’s dogged resistance, have earned the West’s admiration and a steady flow of military support. G7 finance ministers were meeting in Germany to thrash out more cash support.

G7 partners have to “assure Ukraine’s solvency within the next days, few weeks”, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner told the newspaper Die Welt.

But German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said there could be “no shortcuts” to membership of the European Union for Ukraine. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba condemned the “second-class treatment” of his country.

US President Joe Biden was to host the leaders of Finland and Sweden later Thursday to discuss their bids to join NATO, after the Nordic neighbours decided to abandon decades of military non-alignment.

“I warmly welcome and strongly support the historic applications from Finland and Sweden for membership in NATO,” Biden said, offering US support against any “aggression” while their bids are considered.

Beyond Europe, the invasion also threatens to bring famine, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

“Malnutrition, mass hunger and famine” could follow “in a crisis that could last for years,” Guterres warned, urging Russia to release grain exports from occupied Ukraine.

Russia and Ukraine produce 30 percent of the global wheat supply, and the war has also sent food prices surging around the world.

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