The defense of the blocked Mariupol is the heroic and tragic history of the Russian-Ukrainian war. Journalist Yurii Butusov interviewed the participants in those events.

According to Maksym Zhorin, the former commander of the Azov Regiment, in the first days of the full-fledged war, the enemy attention was focused on Kyiv, and the situation in Mariupol was less critical. Denys  Prokopenko, the commander of the Azov Regiment, called him almost every day and asked about Kyiv, because he realized how important the defense of the capital was.

Maksym Zhorin


Vladyslav Sobolevskyi, the deputy commander of the Azov special operations unit, states that in the first days it was clear that Azov and other defenders of Mariupol would be surrounded. Almost immediately, the question arose of to how to help them.

Vladyslav Sobolevskyi


When Russia occupied Volnovakha (in the first half of March), it became clear that Mariupol was in a very difficult situation, as the last road the city with Ukraine-controlled territories was blocked. The city was completely surrounded.

Sobolevskyi says it was clear that the defenders of Mariupol did not have enough resources.

The civilian population did not have a possibility to evacuate since the first half of March. The military were discussing humanitarian corridors for civilians.

Ukrainian commanders also suggest a raid to Mariupol to bring needed weapons and munitions.

A considerable number of Azov soldiers were defending Kyiv at that time. They realized that the circle around their brothers-in-arms in Mariupol was tightening, but they could not help because it was necessary to defend Kyiv region and the capital itself.

‘We could count on hundreds of people – we were collecting lists of people who were willing to go voluntarily to unblock Mariupol, and that list actually consisted of hundreds of people’, Zhorin said.

The regiment’s leadership warned in the first days that the operation was very risky and complicated; the soldiers understood that, but there were still a lot of people willing.

However, as time was passing and Russians were transferring more and more forces to Mariupol, the issue of military unblocking, as Zhorin stated, was becoming more and more difficult.

Then the first commander of the Azov Regiment, Andrii Biletskyi, came to them and suggested another way to solve the problem.