American Volunteers Fighting Alongside Ukraine’s Defenders Become Victims and Heroes

KYIV – An adviser to Ukraine’s president said Thursday that fighting continued at the decimated Azovstal steel plant in the southern port city of Mariupol, where some 200 civilians and hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers have taken refuge. Russia denied claims that its forces had entered the compound and insisted that a humanitarian corridor, protected by a three-day ceasefire announced by Moscow to allow remaining civilians to escape, was open and “working”.

As the fight for full control of the strategic port city intensified, a Ukrainian commander said there were “difficult and bloody” battles around the steelworks, the last bastion of resistance against Russian invaders in Mariupol.

Brutal fighting continued across a vast swath of eastern Ukraine and, as CBS News correspondent Debora Patta reports, there are American volunteers helping Ukraine’s defenders in battle, and Americans are among the casualties and the heroes. from the battlefield.

The more Russia flexes its military strength, the harder the Ukrainians defend themselves. Manus, a US volunteer, was blinded by shrapnel in the fighting.

“I am young, I can take it. I am a man, I am young,” he said. “It’s the children and the elderly that really concern me.”

Ukrainian soldier Vitaly Stanislavovitch was also seriously injured in the battle. He told CBS News that he owes three American volunteers his life.

One of them, Alexis Antilla of Texas, was injured in the same explosion that injured Stanislavovitch, but was still the first person to run to him, as he was trapped in a burning vehicle, to take his pulse.

“I didn’t think I would make it at the time,” Antilla told Patta. “But we were still going to do everything we could to get him out of the vehicle.”

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Then instinct kicked in for Rob Vardaro.

“I refused to let him die,” he told CBS News in an interview conducted via Zoom. “He’s my guy. He’s in my vehicle. So since he knew he didn’t have time to watch where he stepped, I ran through the minefield.”

Along with his friend Red Taylor, the third American volunteer, they pulled Stanislavovich from the burning vehicle. His quick thought of him saved his life.

“Especially Alexis, she is a doctor,” the injured Ukrainian told Patta. The volunteers applied a tourniquet to prevent Stanislavovitch from bleeding to death.

“It saved my life for sure,” he said. “They do magic… I don’t know how they managed to save my life.”

Now Stanislavovich is worried about his American friends. His lives are still in danger as they have joined the fighting in eastern Ukraine.

“I don’t want anything to happen to them. I want them to be alive,” he told Patta. “It’s more than love… I can’t imagine my life without my saviors.”

Theirs is a friendship forged on a bloody battlefield that shows no signs of abating, as Russia wages an all-out assault on the Donbass region.

“I hope to have some opportunity to show that I am a friend without wars. I would shake their hands. I would say hello,” Stanislavovich said.

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