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177 civilians rescued from Azovstal, nearly 2,000 nationalists surrendered — top brass

All have been provided with qualified medical and psychological assistance

MOSCOW, May 20. /TASS/. One hundred and seventy-seven civilians have been rescued from Azovstal in Mariupol, and nearly 2,000 nationalists have surrendered, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said on Friday at a military collegium.

"The blockade of the Azovstal steel plant continues. Civilians held there by Ukrainian nationalists have been evacuated from the plant. 177 people were rescued, including 85 women and 47 children. All have been provided with qualified medical and psychological assistance," he said.

Shoigu also said that the nationalists blockaded at the plant had begun surrendering. "So far, 1,908 people have laid down their weapons. Let me remind you that before that, 1,387 marines laid down weapons there as well," the minister said.

On May 16, an agreement had been reached with the Ukrainian servicemen sealed off on the territory of the Azovstal steel plant on extracting wounded Ukrainian military personnel from the plant.

At a meeting with Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu on April 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin handed down a directive calling off a looming assault on Azovstal as inexpedient and ordered that the industrial zone there be tightly sealed off so that even a fly "couldn’t get through." Defense Minister Shoigu said at a conference call on May 4 that the remnants of the Ukrainian combat group had been reliably sealed off along the entire perimeter of the Azovstal steel complex while the Russian forces continued attempts to persuade them to lay down their weapons and let the civilians out.