The relatives of Ukrainian soldiers still holed up in Mariupol’s Azovstal plant are appealing to Chinese President Xi Jinping to act as a mediator to help extract their loved ones, following a similar plea to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
After a press conference with the families in Kyiv, Stavr Vishnyak told CNN that his son Artem, 21, is fighting inside Azovstal.
“Our children are in hell. We ask the world community again and again to make the extraction procedure. The petition to save Mariupol has collected one-and-a-half million signatures. We have already reached out to everyone. Only Xi Jinping remained. We ask president of China to mediate, intervene and become a peacemaker in this war. Our heroes have almost no time left. Our warriors have already been to hell. Give them the opportunity to step on the earth and see the sun,” Vishnyak said.
A Ukrainian soldier inside the plant described horrific conditions for the wounded on Ukrainian TV on Saturday, saying that “fighters are simply lying without limbs, without arms, without legs.” Conditions are unsanitary and there is no medicine, the solider said.
Soldier Alina Volovik, 25, told CNN that she last saw her Marine husband, Artem, 29, in mid-February. She said she drove to Kyiv overnight from Mikolaiv to join the appeal to save him and others from Azovstal. They’ve been together for four years and have a 2-year-old daughter.
On Thursday, her husband wrote to her that he was alive, Volovik said. When she receives a message from him, she said she is both happy and cries at the same time.
“He has been defending our country since 2014. After this contract, he was going to resign. … We are doing everything possible and impossible to save our men,” she said.
His last message reads: “Hello, honey. I’m all right. There is no internet, so I wrote a message through a friend. How are you? How are parents? Greetings to all. Are you getting my money? Write something and drop the photo. I love you very much and I miss you all, my dear.”
Volovik said that her love for him keeps her going.
“When it becomes difficult, I say to myself in the mirror, ‘He is strong, he will endure everything and he will definitely come back to me,'” she said.
Anna Ivleva, 30, said that she and her 32-year-old husband Anton, a Marine, last spoke to each other in April. He told her he was in Azovstal and seriously wounded. She said he told her he would not surrender and wanted to set an example for their four sons.
“On April 24, he wrote that the situation was very critical, that he did not want to send vain hopes of return, and said that I should be happy and raise our sons properly,” she said.
His fellow soldiers later wrote that he was still alive.