“Chance to Survive” on the sidewalks of Ukraine


The vast underground network under the Azovstal and Zaporizhstal plants was built in the early 1930s, when the world was recovering from one war and preparing for another.

Azovstal pavement in Mariupol.AFP
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Water and food stores in deep underground bunkers, generators, toilets, lots of mattresses or wood stoves. On the sidewalks of Soviet-designed Ukraine, Everything is designed with an ultimate war in mind,

Very similar in style to the Azovstal Plant, where the last Ukrainian forces were stranded in the port city of Mariupol, the Zaporizstal Factory shows how these Stalinist-era industries are designed to avert invasion.

“We can stay in shelters longer”Said factory worker Igor Bugalyev, 20, in overalls and a silver safety hood. “I think it will give us a chance to survive,” he adds as the molten metal flows and sparks behind it.

The Russians never captured Buglayev’s workplace in the southern city of Zaporizhia, but were forced to halt their operations as the front line became dangerously close.

Vast underground networks under the Azovstal and Zaporizhstal plants It was built in the early 1930s., when the world was recovering from one war and preparing for another war, and it was built to protect thousands of workers. The two sidewalks are owned by the Metinvest group controlled by Ukraine’s richest man, Rinat Ajmatov,

There are 16 bunkers in the Zaporizhstal complex. What AFP visited is 10 meters underground and is Protected by 10cm anti-explosive door thick.

Long room lit with white lights, Presents rows of wooden benches and can accommodate up to 600 people. It has water tanks to flush toilets, a warehouse with emergency food and bottled water, and stacks of firewood to power a large metal stove.

economic blow

The bunkers beneath Azovstal sheltered hundreds of civilians who were evacuated during international rescue operations by the United Nations and the Red Cross. just There are still Ukrainian soldiers who protest Russian invasion of Maripol.

“May God save us from finding ourselves in a situation like our colleagues at Azovstal, metalworkers like us who stayed for so long… I wouldn’t wish this on anyone,” he says. Alexander LotenkovHead of the Department of Communications from inside the bunker.

on the surface, The area of ​​the campus is 5.5 square kilometres. is, Although it is half that of Azovstal, the distance from one place to another can be covered only by vehicle.

simultaneously, There are countless places to hide in the enclosure Between its rows of buildings and its long tunnels and many tall structures that serve as observation points.

However, the war has not been good for business. Operations resumed at reduced capacity in early AprilIn the same period when the Russian army withdrew from the outskirts of Kyiv due to strong Ukrainian resistance. There was some good news in the US this week with the suspension of tariffs on Ukraine’s steel. But the situation remains complicated.

Ukraine accounts for just 1% of US steel importsAccording to the officials of the North American country, and especially in times of war, transportation of goods is a major challenge.

“We will not be able to compete with other producers, as their logistics costs are low and in order for us to be able to export to the United States, we have to move our production from Zaporizhia to Poland,” said the general director of the factory, Alexander Mironenko,

Steel exports fell from their pre-war levels. Reviving them and returning to the market will be important for the Ukrainian economy. “It was primarily one of the export oriented industries and About 50% of the foreign exchange earnings were generated by the mining and metallurgical sectors. From Ukraine,” said Mironenko.

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