An adviser to Ukraine’s presidential office says Russian forces are attacking the Azovstal steel plant that is the last defense stronghold of Ukrainian forces in the strategic port city of Mariupol.
Oleksiy Arestovich, an adviser to the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, said during a briefing on Saturday that the Russian forces have resumed air strikes on Azovstal and were trying to storm it AP.
On Thursday, Putin declared victory in Mariupol. He said his forces, which control the rest of the city and have hoisted a flag on the TV tower, would not seek to enter the plant. They would instead seal it off so “not even a fly could escape”, he told his defence minister Sergei Shoigu.
In reality, Moscow has resumed airstrikes and is trying to storm the steelworks, Ukraine’s presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said on Saturday. He told national TV: “The enemy is trying to strangle the final resistance of the defenders of Mariupol in the Azovstal area”.
Russian units continue to hide evidence of their crimes by removing bodies from the city’s rubble, Ukrainian officials said. Satellite images show two new mass graves next to an existing cemetery in the village of Manhush, 15km west of Mariupol. Between 3,000 and 9,000 civilians are buried there, they suggest.The Guardian
A video has emerged from inside the besieged Azovstal steel factory in Mariupol showing women and children who say they are “running out of strength” and need to be urgently evacuated to Ukrainian-controlled territory.
The film was recorded on Thursday. The women say 15 children are living in tunnels beneath the plant, ranging in ages from babies to teenagers. They are trapped together with their families and other civilians, including factory workers.
The video shows several children, one apparently doing homework in a colouring book, surrounded by clothes and makeshift beds. A boy says he is desperate to see sunlight again and to breath fresh air outside after weeks living in a dungeon.
More than 1,000 civilians and roughly 2,000 Ukrainian troops are currently in Azovstal, according to Kyiv. Local officials have estimated that 100,000 residents remain in the city with extremely limited supplies of food and water.
From the Independent:
Mariupol, a part of the industrial region in eastern Ukraine known as the Donbas, has been a key Russian objective since the Feb. 24 invasion began and has taken on outsize importance in the war. Completing its capture would give Russia its biggest victory yet, after a nearly two-month siege reduced much of the city to a smoking ruin and killed an estimated 20,000 people there.
Occupying Mariupol would deprive the Ukrainians of a vital port, free up Russian troops to fight elsewhere and allow Russia to create a land corridor with the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014. More than 100,000 people — down from a prewar population of about 430,000 — are believed trapped in Mariupol with little food, water or heat, according to Ukrainian authorities, who estimate that over 20,000 civilians have been killed in city during the nearly two-month siege. In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denounced all the war’s casualties, noting that the Easter holiday commemorates Christ’s resurrection after his death by crucifixion.