New Worker Banner

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain


by our European Affairs correspondent

UKRAINIAN troops holed up in the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol laid down their arms this week. The last remaining Ukrainian troops in the key Black Sea port have surrendered after being trapped for nearly a month in the Azovstal steelworks. The massive industrial complex, with a network of underground tunnels and bunkers, was the last bastion held by Ukrainian forces.

On the diplomatic front, the drive to get Finland and Sweden into NATO has stalled following Turkish threats to veto their applications unless they agree to halt their support for Kurdish groups that the Turks claim are fronts for the guerrillas fighting in Turkish Kurdistan. Meanwhile, European Union plans for an oil embargo against Russia have also been blocked by Hungary, which is almost totally dependent on Russian oil. The Hungarians are demanding vast amounts of money in exchange for their vote and say they will veto the Brussels plan that requires unanimity from the 27 member states if they don’t get it.

The battle for Mariupol began on 25th February at the start of the Russian military operation in support of the Donbas people’s republics. Russian and Donbas troops fought bitter street battles to clear the city of the Ukrainian marines and Azov brigade fascists who were eventually forced back into their last stronghold – the Azovstal sea-front complex built in Soviet days to withstand nuclear attack.


Although their position was hopeless, the defenders held out for the last few weeks in the hope of some sort of NATO intervention that would lead to an evacuation to Turkey or repatriation to Ukraine via the Red Cross. Though the Russians agreed to set up humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to leave the plant under UN and Red Cross supervision, the only terms they would accept from the garrison were unconditional surrender. Cutting the plant’s water supply was the last straw and the white flag went up on Monday.

Over 1,700 Ukrainian troops have surrendered including some 400 wounded who were taken to hospitals in the Donetsk People’s Republic. They will all be treated as POWs although some of the fascists may face war-crimes charges.

During the battle for Mariupol some 60 per cent of the housing was damaged beyond repair. The Ilyich Iron and Steel Works will be restored, and Azovstal will be demolished and the site converted into a park zone or a technopark by the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).

In Donetsk the communists are campaigning in support of the liberation struggle and the anti-fascist resistance in Ukraine. The Communist Party of the Donetsk People’s Republic works out of the premises of the old Communist Party of Ukraine, which it inherited when the Party was established eight years ago.

The Donetsk communists organise without hindrance, but they still cannot register as a political party or contest elections in their own name – a point raised by their leader Boris Litvinov when he met Denis Pushilin, the head of the DPR, for talks last week. In February their membership stood at 1,080, over 70 of whom are now serving in the Donbas militias fighting on the eastern front.

Artillery exchanges rage along the whole of the eastern front as the Ukrainians dig in to try and halt the Russian offensive that is yet to come. But last week the Russians confined their actions to aggressive patrols and probing attacks whilst using their air superiority to carry out a number of strikes against key and strategically important Ukrainian army positions. Russian warplanes and missiles have targeted warehouses, railways and bridges throughout Ukraine in a renewed effort to disrupt the NATO arms supplies that keep the Ukrainian army going.