GPB First Channel’s exclusive interview with Azov Regiment Deputy Commander
GPB First Channel’s exclusive interview with Azov Regiment Deputy Commander

GPB First Channel interviewed Svyatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, who stays in the Azovstal plant, which is under siege by Russia.

Below is the full interview:

What is happening at Azovstal now? Are there any more civilians among you?

As for civilians, the matter is that the Azovstal plant is rather large and 90-98 percent destroyed. These are buildings destroyed by shelling and a lot of rubble everywhere. We have been monitoring the fate of civilians we knew about. During or between shelling, we spent time with them and were able to evacuate all these people. But there could be more bunkers under the rubble. Maybe there are more civilians, I simply do not know. We did everything we could on our side; we helped evacuate all civilians we were aware of, and we have been asking the government and the international community to act.

Did Russian troops start the assault? What is the situation on the ground?

The situation on the ground is tense. Air raids and shelling continue. They do not care about the wounded, the Geneva Convention. The 19th article of the Geneva Convention clearly states that both sides should not open fire or shell mobile or field health units. They keep shelling with cannon and naval artillery, use tanks and other armored vehicles to covert into the Azovstal plant, then we clash. You saw our new video tonight – we knock them out, then they come back again.

These are daily routine fights. Deputy Prime Minister Vereshchuk announced evacuation negotiations of the seriously wounded warriors from Azovstal. How many wounded do you have? What will happen to other Azovstal defenders if the wounded are evacuated?

We really hope for an evacuation. We have about 600 people wounded now, but this number varies as people die. Wounded soldiers die because we have no medicines to cure them. Their wounds are severe. These are wounds received following air raids, shelling, bullet wounds, and gangrene. Furthermore, they (Russians) have heavily shelled the hospital, and surgical instruments got under the rubble. A week ago, there were 36 severely wounded, now there are more. I hope they evacuate some warriors; still better than none. At first, we wanted civilians withdrawn. Now, we ask those who can no longer hold weapons to be evacuated. There are actually about 600 such people, plus doctors, who do such a colossal job in such conditions that they also need to survive somehow. If there is such an opportunity, I, as a deputy commander, really appreciate my soldiers, and I think our country also values our soldiers, as they did the impossible. When the enemy has aviation, a fleet, and a massive superiority in everything, it is very difficult to keep the defense for 78 days. I hope evacuation to a third country, or the territory controlled by Ukraine, or any other political method could save their lives.

You have repeatedly appealed to the international community and, specifically, Turkey to mediate. Can you explain why you are asking the Turkish side to involve? We know that President Erdogan reached a deal and withdrew the military in Syria. Why do we appeal to him?

First, the security in the Black Sea, and ports, besides problems with Ukrainian grain. It is a disaster, but Turkey is a large country and a world leader. President Erdogan is a powerful personality. He is a prominent person and can talk to Putin. Therefore, we believe he can influence. He represents neither the government of Ukraine nor Russia, but a third country. He is a third party, and nothing could be done without third-party guarantees.

Can the Ukrainian army unblock Azovstal by military means?

Speaking in military terms, we cannot soberly assess the situation, what types of weapons the senior commanders currently have, what they can do, and what kind of strategic plans they have. I will say nothing is impossible. Our soldiers proved that. Perhaps there is such a possibility, but if our military-political leadership declares that there is no such possibility now, then we hope at least for a political solution to this issue. The situation is very stalemate. Because the enemy is losing his soldiers, and we are losing our soldiers, we do not give up, and in such a situation, it is necessary to come to some kind of agreement. Because we won’t give up tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, we won’t give up. If we don’t have water and food, we will still get food somewhere. We will catch crows and pigeons, but we will go on. Therefore, this is also in the interests of our military-political leadership. And if Putin agreed to the evacuation of civilians, then a priori, there is an opportunity to agree to the evacuation of wounded and ordinary soldiers. These are both men and women, the national guard, including the Azov regiment and the marine guard, the police, and territorial defense. The remnants of all units are here.

Is it true that a Georgian military invented the whole Azovstal defense plan? Are there Georgians among you?

One Georgian, Bakhva, died here, and the second Giorgi was severely wounded in the battle. He is just a colossal, big man, the greatest person. He was evacuated and is now being cured. You know, speaking about these people, I would like to express great respect for the Georgian people, for the fact that they have such warriors, and believe me, we have learned a lot from them. As for the defense plan, I will not talk about this military component. I do not want to reveal it.

Speaking of evacuation, defense of your homeland is still an issue. In what conditions are you ready to extract? You know, many people ask why don’t lay down arms? Why do you keep on the defensive?

First, we are military people. We obey the order. The order to keep on the defensive has not yet been canceled. As to our evacuation, this will be possible only if we, with our personal, small arms, come under the control of a third party, a neutral or international organization, maybe a coalition of some political forces, or political leaders. Everything depends on guarantees.

Who should give these guarantees? Some of the Azovstal defenders have criticized the political leadership of Ukraine. Have the authorities done everything to get you out? Why are you dissatisfied?

I don’t think it’s dissatisfaction but an opportunity to somehow influence. We understand that the political machine is very slow. It takes a lot of time to decide, and so on. But both the Supreme Commander and the General Staff must understand that we have done the impossible. And when they say they did their best, we disagree. We ask them to do the impossible for their soldiers because we believe in the impossible and prove it every day. Do you understand?

Let me add I am very proud that I personally know the Georgian warriors. I want to convey to your country immense gratitude because you exist, for the fact that you fought, and for the fact that your men are fighting for our country. I’m sure everything will be fine.

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