The steel plant was the last piece of Ukrainian defense in Mariupol, which Russia struggled for weeks to take it.

Kyiv, Ukraine – Russian occupiers of the Russian occupiers have returned dozens of Ukrainian fighters to Ukraine who died at the Azovstal metallurgical plant. destroyed the city of Mariupolwhere them last rack became a symbol of resistance against Invasion of Moscow.

The dead, taken from the ruins of the bombed plant, were transported to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, where DNA testing is underway to identify the remains, said both the military leader and a spokesman for the Azov Regiment.

Regiment “Azov”. was among the Ukrainian detachments that defended the metallurgical plant for almost three months before the surrender in May under relentless Russian attacks from land, sea and air.

It was unclear how many bodies could remain at the plant.

Meanwhile, Russian troops continued to fight for control of Severodonetsk, a city in eastern Ukraine that is key to Moscow’s goal of completing the capture of the Donbass industrial region.

President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that Ukrainian forces are holding their ground in the city amid fierce fighting in the streets as Russia tries to deploy more forces.

“But this is the 103rd day, and the Ukrainian Donbass is worth it. It is firmly established, ”he said in his daily address to the nation.

“Russia’s broader plan is likely to continue to cut off the Severodonetsk region from both the north and the south,” the UK Defense Department said in a statement on Tuesday.

But it noted that Russia’s progress in the south had stalled over the past week as Moscow’s forces prepared for a new push in the north.

Zelensky also said that Moscow’s forces intend to take the city of Zaporozhye in the southeast, home to more than 700,000 people, which could seriously weaken Ukraine and allow the Russian military to move closer to the center of the country.

“In the Zaporozhye region … there is the most threatening situation,” – said Zelensky.

The persistent defense of Ukrainian militants at the metallurgical plant thwarted the Kremlin’s goal of quickly capturing Mariupol and tied up Russian forces in a strategic port city.

The fate of the defenders is in Russian hands shrouded in uncertainty. Zelensky said that more than 2.5 thousand fighters of the plant are in captivity, and Ukraine is working to secure their release.

The Ukrainian government has not announced the retrieval of the remains from the ruins of Azovstal, and Russian officials have not commented. But relatives of the soldiers killed at the plant discussed the process with the Associated Press.

Ukraine on Saturday announced the first since the beginning of the war officially confirmed the exchange of fallen soldiers. It says the parties exchanged only 320 bodies, each receiving back 160 sets of remains. The exchange took place on Thursday on the front line in the Zaporozhye region.

A spokeswoman for the Azov Regiment, Anna Golovka, said that all 160 Ukrainian bodies handed over by the Russians were from the ruins of the Azov Resistance. She said at least 52 of those bodies were considered the remains of Azov Regiment soldiers.

Former head of the Azov Regiment Maxim Zhorin, who now commands the Kiev military unit, confirmed that among those who exchanged were bodies from a metallurgical plant.

The brother of the missing Azov fighter, who is feared to have died at a metallurgical plant, told the AP that at least two trucks with bodies from Azovstal had been transported to a military hospital in Kyiv for identification.

Vyachaslau Drofa said that the remains of his older brother Dzmitry Lisen were not found yet. He added that some of the dead were badly burned.

The mother of a soldier killed in an airstrike on the plant said she had received a call from the Azov Regiment and said her son’s body might be among those transported to Kyiv. The mother did not want her or her son to be identified by name, fearing that discussing the healing process could disrupt it.

She called her son a hero with tears. “It is important for me to bury him on our Ukrainian land,” she said.

Other events on Monday, Ukraine’s efforts to fight back Invasion of Russia hung large Commemoration of D in France, which marked the 78th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy.

“The battle in Ukraine is in honor of these World War II veterans,” said Army General Mark Millie, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at Calville-sur-Mer Cemetery in America, overlooking Omaha Beach in Normandy.

He added: “We are talking about maintaining the so-called international order, based on global rules, which was established by the dead, who are buried here in these cemeteries.”

Meanwhile, the president of Ukraine’s separatist Donetsk People’s Republic has said the pro-Moscow region is suing three Britons who were allegedly mercenaries for Ukraine. If convicted, including in an attempt to seize power, men could face the death penalty.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree on the payment of one-time payments of 5 million rubles ($ 81,000) to the families of members of the Russian National Guard who died in Ukraine. The guardsmen took part in operations such as the capture of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The one-time payment is about six times higher than the average annual Russian salary.

On the battlefield, Russian warplanes fired long-range missiles to destroy a plant on the outskirts of the city of Lozova in the northeast of the Kharkiv region, which was engaged in repairing armored vehicles, said Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Kanashenko.

Russian aircraft struck 73 areas of concentration of Ukrainian troops and equipment, and Russian artillery struck 431 military targets, Kanashenko said. His allegations could not be independently verified.

Ukrainian troops resisted in Severodonetsk and other areas.

“There are more of them, they are more powerful, but we have every chance to fight in this direction,” Zelensky said.

Associated Press writers David Keitan and Alexander Stashevsky in Kyiv; Yuras Karmanov in Lviv, Ukraine; Andrea Rosa in Bakhmut, Ukraine; and Sylvie Corbe in Calville-sur-Mer, France, contributed to this story.

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