Ukraine sells last batch of bracelets made from Azovstal steel

FILE PHOTO: A view shows a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol

By Anna Voitenko

KYIV (Reuters) - The last batch of bracelets made from metal produced by the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, a symbol of Ukrainian resistance to Russia's invasion, have gone on sale across Ukraine.

Proceeds from the bracelets, which are on sale for around $40, will go to an organisation helping finance the procurement and maintenance of drones used by the Ukrainian military.

"We are proud to be Ukrainian when we wear this bracelet. This is a very strong feeling," said Yurii Ryzhenkov, the director of Metinvest, the company that owns Azovstal and was involved with the bracelets.

"My (entire) family already bought one ... and they think it's something symbolic that unites the whole country."

Ukrainian fighters fought Russian forces for months over control of Mariupol, a strategic Azov Sea port city and industrial hub.

In the closing days of the battle, fighting focused on the vast Azovstal complex that sheltered the last remaining fighters - and some civilians - until their surrender in mid-May. The fighters are widely regarded as heroes in Ukraine.

The bracelets are made from metal produced at Azovstal that was used in a huge sign made up of steel letters declaring "Believe in ZSU (Armed Forces of Ukraine)". The sign, which was installed in Kyiv, has been dismantled.

The bracelets were made by a jewellery company called Sova. So far, the company has produced 30,000 bracelets and they first went on sale a month ago.

"One of the stories we heard: parents bought it (a bracelet) for their son who was defending Ukraine on the frontline," Liudmyla Sova, the jewellery company's director, told Reuters.

The bracelets are decorated only with a trident - a Ukrainian national symbol.

"We did not want to recast the steel. We wanted to preserve its structure and features," Sova said.

Ryzhenkov said Azovstal steel was strong, reliable and of high quality, and this resonated with Ukrainians.

"So that's why we think that this steel, which was produced by the legendary mill "3600" at Azovstal, was really of significance to many Ukrainians. Especially considering that it's at the bomb shelters at the site of this particular mill, where most of the defenders were located in those months of resistance," he said.

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(Reporting by Anna Voitenko; Writing by Aleksandar Vasovic and Stefaniia Bern; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)