Top-ranking Ukrainian commanders have not yet surrendered from the labyrinth of bunkers and tunnels below the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, the leader of the Russian-backed separatist region of Donetsk said on Wednesday, APA reports citing CNN.
As the most devastating siege in Russia's invasion moves towards a finale, nearly 1,000 Ukrainian fighters who barricaded themselves into the tunnels have so far given themselves up to Russian and pro-Russian forces since Monday.
Russia's defense ministry said that in the past day, 694 Ukrainian fighters - including members of the Azov regiment - had surrendered, including 29 wounded.
It was unclear if the top commanders would leave the plant or possibly even fight a last mortal battle with the Russian forces they regarded as occupiers of their motherland.
"There are no commanders of the highest level (among those who surrendered) - they have not left," said Denis Pushilin, head of the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic, which was officially recognized by President Vladimir Putin just three days before the invasion of Ukraine.
"That is - so far," Pushilin, who, along with Russian forces, controls Mariupol, was quoted as saying by the Donetsk News Agency, known as DAN.
It was unclear what would happen to the fighters who were cast by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as heroic resistance fighters but who Russian lawmakers said were "Nazi criminals" who should face the gravest punishment, even death.