See Mariupol’s Azovstal steel mill fortress in peacetime, then after nearly two months of war.


In late January, as Ukrainian troops braced for a Russian invasion were reported in Mariupol, a New York Times video team captured drone footage over the Azovstal iron and steel plant, an industry engine for the southern port city.

Three months later, the factory has become the last resort for Ukrainian defenders of the city against Russian forces.

In peacetime, the sprawling factory complex, opened in 1933 under Soviet rule, produced more than four tons of steel and iron a year and provided work for thousands of local residents. The hulking factory dominated the city skyline, sending curly exhaust into the heavy winter skies in January.

Now, another drone has captured a similar angle of the steel mill and its surroundings, capturing images of destruction, including collapsed roofs and smoldering, collapsed bridges. The video, distributed by Reuters, was first published by RIA Novosti, a Russian state news agency, which depicted the footage as minutes before the Russian attack was to be halted to give Ukrainian defenders at the factory a chance to lay down their weapons. Previous Russian ceasefire announcements have not gone through.

The before-and-after images show the extent of the destruction Mariupol has suffered after nearly two months of near-constant bombardment by Russian artillery, mortars and air raids. Ukrainian fighters and hundreds of civilians have knelt during the siege, and an unknown number remain in the factory’s labyrinth of underground chambers and corridors, with dwindling supplies inside.

Ukrainian forces inside the plant have refused Russian ultimatums to surrender and have vowed to fight to the “last drop of blood”. At the same time, they have begged for help from the outside world, either for third party help in evacuating civilians or with weapons to fight their way out.

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