President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that the defenders of Mariupol had a choice to leave the city and save their lives, but they did not want to leave their wounded brothers-in-arms and the bodies of the dead there. The Head of State spoke about this in an interview for Russian media from "Zygar" YouTube channel, "Rain" TV channel, "Meduza" portal, "Kommersant" and "Novaya Gazeta".
"There are our troops inside (the city of Mariupol - ed.). Where Russian troops can enter, they have entered. They did not enter certain parts of the city. Because there are our men who refused to leave despite their appeals," he said.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that he regularly communicates with the defenders of Mariupol and members of their families.
"Every two days I get in touch for sure… I also told them that I understand everything, we will definitely come back, but if you feel that you need to leave and you feel that it is right and that you can survive, do it. I understand what it looks like for the military, but do it. I gave them that choice. And they said: we can't, the wounded are here, we will not leave the wounded. Moreover, they said they would not leave the dead," the President said.
The Head of State also said that there was an attempt to agree with the Russian side on the removal of the bodies of killed soldiers and civilians lying in the open air, but such removal was not allowed.
"The reality is that the city is blocked by the Russian military, all entrances and exits from Mariupol are blocked, the port is mined. The humanitarian catastrophe in the city is obvious. Because food, medicine, and water can't be delivered. The Russian troops are shelling humanitarian convoys and killing drivers," Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.
According to him, due to the shelling, many humanitarian convoys returned without reaching Mariupol.
The President also confirmed that in the framework of the agreements, people were leaving the city using civilian transport, but Russia also organized the forcible removal of Mariupol residents to the occupied territories.
"According to our data, more than 2,000 children were deported. Which means they were abducted. Because we do not know the exact locations of all these children. There were children with and without parents. It's a catastrophe, it's horrible," said Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
According to him, these people are being taken by the Russian side to replenish the "exchange fund".