Hope and fear for Azovstal fighters' relatives

STORY: Ukraine ordered its garrison in Mariupol to stand down on Monday (May 16) but has since given few details of what it describes as an effort to rescue fighters from Azovstal, the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance the ruined port.

Sandra Krotevych's brother was in the steelworks. Right now she doesn't know his whereabouts or if he is among those who have surrendered to Russian forces.

“Of course, I’m afraid. I don’t trust Russia," she said, adding that relatives were willing to do "everything possible and impossible" to save their loved ones.

Nineteen year-old Mariia Zimareva knows where her husband is. He was on a list of soldiers who had left the steelworks and had been taken to the Russian-controlled town of Olenivka near Donetsk.

She said she worries about the conditions her husband and others will be kept in, but is hopeful that he will be able to come home soon.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said that almost 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers in Azovstal had surrendered so far. Ukrainian officials have not confirmed that number and Reuters has not been able to verify it.

Britain said on Friday (May 20) around 1,700 fighters had surrendered and an unknown number remained inside.

A full abandonment of the bunkers and tunnels of the bombed-out plant would end the most destructive siege of a war that began when Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 in what Moscow calls a "special military operation".