Aidan Aslin, a British man fighting against Russia in Mariupol, could not be reached for comment

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Aidan Aslin, a British man fighting in Ukraine, spent weeks defending the besieged city of Mariupol from Russia’s advances, with wars raging from block to block for control of the strategic port.

Aslin’s unit – the 36th Marine Brigade of Ukraine – ran out of food, water and ammunition, so he called his friend Brennan Phillips.

“The first thing he said was, ‘I surrender to the Russians,'” the 36 – year – old American Phillips told the Washington Post early Tuesday morning, local time.

Aslin said his commander planned to surrender the unit in a few hours. When Russian forces came looking for him, Aslin said, “I will destroy his phone and throw it in the toilet.”

They know it will be their last call. After they were disconnected, Aslin sent him a message. “The last thing he said to me was, ‘Please don’t let them forget about me,'” Phillips said.

Phillips never heard anything about him. The Washington Post could not access Aslin.

After the Russian invasion, Ukraine sought volunteers from all over the world to fight. Despite the dangers, some noticed the call. But Aslin joined the Ukrainian navy long before the war – in 2018, according to Philipp – after three years of fighting alongside Syrian Kurdish forces against the Islamic State.

It was there that he met with Philip, who set up a team of war physicians in Syria to train Kurdish and Western volunteers on the ground.

Aslin then sought to protect the region of Donbass, which competed in eastern Ukraine, from pro-Russian separatists.

Aslin settled into a career in Ukraine. He got engaged. But that changed when Russian forces invaded on February 24.

Aslin soon became part of Ukraine’s last line of defense in Mariupol, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zhelensky recently described it as important in preventing Russian forces from gaining a strong foothold in the east. “Mariupol is at the heart of this war today,” Zhelensky told the Associated Press on Sunday. “It beats, we fight, we are strong. If it stops beating, we will get weaker positions.

Inside the terror in the theater where Mariupol was bombed: ‘I heard constant screams’

Aslin’s extraordinary story provides a window into the desperate situation in Mariupol, which is said to have been destroyed after a siege that cut off food, water, heat and humanitarian aid for more than a month. The successive Russian bombings made it difficult to evacuate civilians. The mayor of the city of Mariupol, Vadim Boychenko, said on Wednesday that there were 50,000 to 70,000 people in and around the city. He previously said more than 10,000 civilians had been killed.

For weeks, Aslin talked about his “frustration,” with Philips saying that Russian forces were targeting his unit and others were not targeting Mariupol, but rather “targeting civilians.”

Authorities say Russian forces were behind the attacks on a maternity hospital and theater in Mariupol, killing many and injuring dozens more. Witnesses told The Post that Mariupol residents had been forcibly deported to a Russian-controlled area. Russia has been accused of committing war crimes in Mariupol and other parts of Ukraine.

The OSCE says Russia’s deliberate attacks on civilians in Mariupol are ‘war crimes’

As they spoke, Phillips said Aslin was in a “good mood” and “seemed to have been thinking about this for a while.”

The Aslin faction, a day earlier, had warned that it was going to war with declining supplies. U.S. intelligence says renewed focus on Mariupol comes after Russia reduced its military operations in Ukraine and withdrew troops from around the capital, Kiev, laying the groundwork for a major offensive in the east.

In a Facebook post, members of the 36th Marine Regiment claimed that their unit had defended Mariupol for 47 days, but without supplies, they faced death or captivity.

Phillips told Aslin: “You have to find a way to do something. Do not surrender.

But Aslin, according to Phillips, said, “We have no choice. [we’re] Completely surrounded, we have no ammunition, we have no food, we have no water, no capacity to deliver again.

Aslin expressed hope that he would be released as part of a prisoner transfer between Russia and Ukraine.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that 1,026 members of the 36th Marine Regiment had “voluntarily laid down their arms and surrendered” near the iron and steel works north of the city. The ministry said 151 of them were injured and treated at the scene and later taken to a hospital in Mariupol. The ministry said the group included 162 officers and 47 female militants.

A spokesman for Ukraine’s defense ministry said on Wednesday that it had no information about the group’s surrender.

Aslin’s mother, Ang Wood, told the BBC her son’s faction had surrendered “because they had no weapons to fight.”

“I love my son, he’s my hero – they have a hell of a fight,” he told the BBC.

Ukraine is preparing for a new offensive as Russia strengthens its military in the east

Aslin was alone when he met Phillips in Syria because he had a “heart for the people.”

A former caregiver for the elderly and disabled became a volunteer fighter, Phillips says Aslin was “one of those who was there for the right reasons.”

He “took care of the civilians while in Syria” and wanted to help end the war there. He had extended his contract with the Ukrainian military for another six months, Phillips said when the invasion began.

Phillips released a video on social media after his call with Aslin to draw attention to his friend’s story, he said.

“I felt that anything that happened to him after this was a documented war crime,” Phillips said, citing the Geneva Conventions, saying “prisoners of war should be treated with humanity at all times.”

Now, Phillips says he believes his friend is “in Russian custody, whether he was murdered, or worse.”

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