“We asked him to come to Ukraine, talk to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, tell him Let them go,” Kateryna Prokopenko, wife of one of the heads of the Azov division, Denis Prokopenko, told reporters. .
The interview, which lasted “about five minutes” according to them, took place at the end of the general audience of the sovereign pontiff, in Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican.
“We hope that this meeting will save their lives. We are ready for an action from the Pope, his delegation, our soldiers are ready to lower their arms in the event of evacuation to a third country,” she said. added.
“We told the pope that 700 of our soldiers are wounded, that they suffer from gangrene, amputations (…) Many of them died, we could not bury them”, has for his share said Yulia Fedosiuk, 29.
“We asked the pope to help them, to act as a third party in this war and to allow them to flee through a humanitarian corridor. He told us that he was praying for us and that he would do whatever he wanted. can”, she added, pointing out the “terrible conditions” on the spot, “without water, without food, without medical equipment”.
They said they feared that the soldiers would be captured, tortured and killed by Russian forces.
For several weeks, Mariupol has been almost entirely under the control of Russian forces. Only the immense Azovstal steelworks escaped them, which the Russian army relentlessly pounded.
According to kyiv, “more than a thousand” Ukrainian soldiers, including “hundreds of wounded” are still in the underground galleries of this vast metallurgical complex, after the evacuation of all civilians last week with the help of the ‘UN.
Ukrainian authorities have said they are “working” on the possibility of evacuating injured soldiers, medical personnel and military chaplains from the steel plant, while hoping for help from international organizations and Turkey.
Created in 2014, the controversial Azov regiment is at the heart of a propaganda war between kyiv and Russia, one of the declared war aims of which is the “denazification” of Ukraine.