And Chechen troops, already accused of raping and murdering civilians, have been financially rewarded by Russian commanders to kill or capture any Britons who volunteer to fight, sources revealed last night. Reports from Ukraine indicate that up to 1,000 resistance fighters remain inside the Azovstal steel factory, living in a maze of deep tunnels initially designed as fallout shelters.
They represent the last pocket of resistance in the strategic port city that is now under Russian control.
Of these, at least three are former British soldiers with previous combat experience in Afghanistan. Two are former infantry corporals, while the third is said to be a former combat medic.
He is believed to be very busy helping to treat another 600 fighters who have been injured during the constant barrage of Russian attacks over the past ten weeks. Many of them have received serious, life-changing injuries and are unable to receive adequate medical treatment.
The former soldiers were among the roughly 1,000 British veterans who volunteered to help Ukrainian forces following the February 24 invasion by Russian forces.
His presence in the besieged city was revealed last night by another former British soldier who joined the so-called International Brigade in Donetsk, before being wounded and evacuated to Lviv for treatment.
“All three boys from the steelworks served in the British Army, I know two have seen service in Afghanistan, but like me they were shocked by the intensity of the conflict,” said the 34-year veteran who served in the military. he out with The Rifles.
“We traveled together just before the war started with the aim of joining the Ukrainians in the East. But they were sent south and reinforced the Azov regiment.”
He added: “I was with a couple of Canadians and didn’t hear from them again until March when I got a text saying they had ended up at a steel mill in Mariupol.
“I was told that there was another British man who was seriously injured in the factory and that he had been fighting in eastern Ukraine since 2014.
“Last month I got a few more texts and from what they said the conditions were terrible, but very well organized. They had food and water, but their biggest concern was ammunition.”
Chillingly, he said all resistance fighters at the Azovstal steel factory had been warned to “save a round for themselves because no one wants to be caught.”
He added: “I was told that, in several body exchanges with the Russians at the border in 2015, it was clear, even then, that the dead Ukrainian soldiers who returned had been tortured first.
“Now Russian commanders have offered bounties to the Chechens for any British captured or killed.
“They see Boris Johnson as the number one hate figure and are desperate to hit back at the UK for the help it has provided to Ukraine.”
Azovstal is the last pocket of resistance in the strategic port city of Mariupol, which stands on the Sea of Azov.
Heartbreaking footage emerged last week of conditions inside the Azovstal plant, showing Ukrainian fighters having had their legs amputated in the makeshift field hospital erected by the Azov Regiment.
Commanders say the wounded are living in unsanitary conditions “with open wounds dressed with remnants of non-sterile bandages, without the necessary medication and even food.”
Although all the women, children and pensioners who had desperately sought refuge at the plant were said to have been evacuated as part of a humanitarian mission coordinated by the United Nations and the Red Cross (ICRC) last week, it is believed that around a hundred of civilians remain.
Last night, Robert Clarke, director of defense and security at the Civitas think tank, said: “If the Ukrainians have British junior NCOs there, it’s no wonder they manage to hold out. Even two or three can make a difference. They will be extremely valued at this time.”
Clarke, himself a former infantry corporal, added: “Like the Russians, the Ukrainian military doesn’t really have an established NCO cadre.
“Junior NCOs in British infantry regiments attend platoon commander and section commander courses and are well trained.
“While the officers organize the orders and plan the next day’s operations, it is the junior NCOs who organize and build the defenses, decide where to place people and obstacles, and make sure attackers are channeled to cover the most vulnerable areas. . It is his main skill set. “
Last week, Colonel Sergei Volyna, commander of the 36th Marine Brigade in Mariupol, appealed to both tech tycoon Elon Musk and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to mediate the safe removal of the wounded soldiers. .
Following an appeal by Ukraine’s Vice President Mykhailo Fedorov in February, Musk, the world’s richest man, diverted his SpaceX Starlink satellites to boost the country’s internet services that had been disrupted by the invasion.
“There are 600 servicemen with injuries of various degrees who need urgent help here,” Colonel Volynsky added.
“We have civilians who have been injured and who need medical assistance.”