In late January, while in Mariupol reporting on how Ukrainian forces were bracing for a Russian invasion, a New York Times video team captured drone footage over the Azovstal Iron and Steel works plant, an engine of industry for the southern port city.
Three months later, the plant has become the last redoubt for Ukrainian defenders of the city against Russian forces.
In peacetime, the sprawling factory complex, which opened in 1933 under Soviet rule, produced more than four tons of steel and iron each year and employed thousands of local residents. The hulking factory dominated the city’s skyline, and in January it sent curling plumes of exhaust into the heavy winter sky.
Now, another drone has captured a similar, angle of the steel plant and its surroundings, showing images of devastation, including roofs of buildings crashed in and smoldering, collapsed bridges. The video, disseminated by Reuters, was first published by RIA Novosti, a Russian state news agency, which portrayed the images as being taken minutes before a supposed halt in Russia’s attack to give Ukraine’s defenders inside the plant a chance to lay down their arms. Prior Russian announcements of cease-fires have fallen through.
The before-and-after footage shows the scale of destruction that Mariupol has suffered after nearly two months of near constant bombardment by Russian artillery, mortars and airstrikes. Ukrainian fighters and hundreds of civilians have hunkered down over the course of the siege, and an unknown number remain in the factory’s labyrinth of underground rooms and passages, with diminishing supplies inside.
Ukrainian forces inside the plant have refused Russia’s ultimatums to surrender and vowed to fight until the “last drop of blood.” At the same time, they have pleaded for help from the outside world, either for a third party’s assistance in evacuating civilians or with weapons to fight their way out.