Ukraine's Dunkirk: Mariupol's Azovstal steel works is a story of resistance against the odds

John Ray, reporting live from Dnipro, in Ukraine, sets out what the defeat of Mariupol means for Russia's advance

It is no wonder that Mariupol has become such a symbol of the wider war in Ukraine.

After 82 days defending the port city's last stronghold, the Azovstal steel works, more than 260 Ukrainian fighters, many wounded from constant bombardment, were evacuated and taken to areas under Russian control.

For Russia, it is a victory that has exposed its failings.

For Ukraine, it is a defeat that reveals all its strengths and forges a national story for heroism and resistance against the odds.

We have Dunkirk; they will always have Mariupol.

In the end, its fighters occupied perhaps 20,000 Russian and Chechen troops for far, far longer than the Kremlin planned.

Ukrainian defenders of the Azovstal steel plant - the last stronghold of Mariupol - were branded 'heroes of our time'. Credit: Dmitry Kazatsky from the Ukrainian National Guard's Azov Special Forces Regiment

Belatedly, Vladimir Putin has his "land bridge" along the coast of the Azov Sea to link Russia with Crimea.

But at what an appalling cost. A city destroyed. Countless thousands of lives lost.

And compare his situation now with the days when the siege of Mariupol began.

Then, Russian troops encircled half the country; from Kyiv in the north to Crimea in the south.

Many weeks later, the military ambition has been dramatically scaled back.

The port city of Mariupol has been one of the most shattered in the war. Credit: AP

The points at which the Russians aim to advance has been reduced to a few pockets in the east.

Western analysts say they have made little significant progress; bogged down by supply problems. They’re sustaining heavy casualties.

Having bought time at Mariupol and elsewhere, Ukraine has regrouped, reinforced and is in receipt of ever more effective weapons from the West.

None of this is to predict the outcome of the war. But no wonder Kyiv is sounding more confident than at any time since it began.

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