Ukrainians in the capital brimmed Wednesday with pride over how outgunned fighters at a southern Ukraine steel plant had held out against Russian troops for weeks but voiced fear for them now that they were captives.
Russia says hundreds of Ukrainian fighters have surrendered this week at the besieged Azovstal plant in the port city of Mariupol following battles that have become emblematic of Ukraine's fierce resistence to the Russian invasion.
The Kyiv government is hoping to exchange the captured Ukrainian fighters for Russian prisoners of war, but Moscow has yet to confirm whether there will be a swap.
"I can't imagine how they did it. As I see it, there are normal people and then there's those guys," added Maksym Malyovanyi, a 23-year-old set designer in the capital Kyiv who was amazed at their bravery and endurance.
Andriy, a 37-year-old resident working in security, said the fighters at Mariupol were "supermen".
"It was the stronghold of people who did impossible things," he said of Azovstal, while encouraging other countries to advocate on behalf of returning the fighters to Ukraine.
The developments at the steel plant came as supplies dwindled and conditions of the wounded deteriorated.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said negotiations were ongoing with Moscow over what the future would hold for the last soldiers inside Azovstal.
"There is no other way. Their lives must be saved. Some of them are injured already ... there is no other option," 46-year-old Kyiv resident Bohdan told AFP when asked about the negotiations.
'Forever in history'
On Wednesday, Russia's defence ministry said that 959 Ukrainian soldiers had surrendered this week at the steel plant, including 80 who were wounded and set to receive medical treatment in a hospital in Russian-controlled territory.
Ukraine said 260 fighters left the plant on Monday in what it calls an evacuation operation but has not given updated figure.
It also remains unclear just how many fighters remain inside the steel works and if they plan to also lay down their arms.
Video footage and pictures posted on social media this week showed a stream of soldiers leaving the steel plant, most of whom appeared heavily bearded, emaciated, or wounded with several being carried out in makeshift stretchers.
Residents in Kyiv who spoke with AFP said Russia could not be trusted to treat the soldiers humanely.
"Yesterday I heard on Russian television ... that they may kill them because they think they are Nazis. I'm scared," said student Oleksandr Gerasymenko, 23.
Earlier this week, Ukraine's general staff said the troops in Mariupol "performed their combat task" and now the main goal was to "save the lives of personnel".
By holding out at the Azovstal plant, Mariupol's defenders bogged down an untold number of Russian troops and prevented them from seizing the southern city of Zaporizhzhia, a statement on Facebook said.
"They are forever in history," it added.
Last month, the Kremlin announced that its forces were in control of Mariupol after a weeks-long siege of the port city.
But even as Russia claimed to control the area, hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers continued to resist from the underground tunnels snaking beneath the sprawling Azovstal industrial zone.
Kyiv's defence ministry said it would do "everything necessary" to rescue the remaining personnel in Azovstal, but admitted there was no military option available.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)