Russians push deeper into Mariupol as locals plead for help

On Saturday, Russian forces pushed deeper into the beleaguered and battered Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, where heavy fighting shut down a major steel plant and local authorities pleaded for more Western aid.

The fall of Mariupol, scene of some of the war’s worst suffering, would mark a major battlefield breakthrough for the Russians, who have been largely bogged down outside major cities for more than three weeks in the biggest ground invasion. in Europe since World War II.

“Children, old people are dying. The city is destroyed and it is wiped off the face of the earth,” Mariupol police officer Michail Vershnin said from a rubble-strewn street in a video addressed to Western leaders and authenticated by the Associated Press. .

Details also began to emerge on Saturday of a rocket attack that killed up to 40 marines in the southern city of Mykolaiv the previous day, according to a Ukrainian military official who spoke to The New York Times.

Russian forces have already severed Mariupol from the Sea of ​​Azov, and its fall would connect Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, to eastern territories controlled by Moscow-backed separatists. It would be a rare breakthrough in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance that has dashed Russia’s hopes of a quick victory and galvanized the West.

Ukrainian and Russian forces fought over the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, said Vadym Denysenko, adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister. “One of the largest metallurgical plants in Europe is being destroyed,” Denysenko said in a televised address.

The Mariupol City Council claimed hours later that Russian soldiers had forcibly moved several thousand of the city’s residents, mostly women and children, to Russia. He did not specify where, and AP could not immediately confirm the claim.

Oleksiy Arestovych, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said the closest forces that could help Mariupol were already fighting “the overwhelming force of the enemy” and that “there is currently no military solution in Mariupol” . Zelenskyy said Sunday morning that the siege of Mariupol would go down in history for what he called war crimes committed by Russian troops.

“To do this to a peaceful city, what the occupiers did, is a terror that will be remembered for centuries,” he said in a video address to the nation.

Despite the siege of Mariupol, many were struck by Ukraine’s ability to hold off its much larger and better armed enemy. The UK Ministry of Defense said Ukrainian airspace continued to be effectively defended.

“Gaining control of the air was one of Russia’s primary objectives during the early days of the conflict and their continued failure to do so has significantly blunted their operational progress,” the ministry said on Twitter.

In Mykolaiv, rescuers searched the rubble of the navy barracks which was destroyed in an apparent missile attack on Friday. The region’s governor said the marines were sleeping when the attack happened.

It was unclear how many Marines were inside at the time, and rescuers were still searching the rubble for survivors the next day. But a senior Ukrainian military official, who spoke to The New York Times on condition of anonymity to reveal sensitive information, estimated that up to 40 marines had been killed, making it one of the worst attacks. deadliest known killings against Ukrainian forces during the war.

Estimates of Russian deaths vary widely, but even conservative figures are in the thousands. Russia suffered 64 deaths in five days of fighting in its 2008 war with Georgia. He lost about 15,000 in Afghanistan in 10 years and more than 11,000 during the years of fighting in Chechnya.

The Russian military said on Saturday it used its latest hypersonic missile for the first time in combat. Major General Igor Konashenkov said the Kinzhal missiles destroyed an underground warehouse storing Ukrainian missiles and aviation ammunition in the western Ivano-Frankivsk region.

Russia said the Kinzhal, carried by MiG-31 fighter jets, has a range of up to 2,000 kilometers (about 1,250 miles) and flies at 10 times the speed of sound.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the United States could not confirm the use of a hypersonic missile.

UN bodies have confirmed the death of more than 847 civilians since the start of the war, although they admit the true toll is likely much higher. The UN says more than 3.3 million people have fled Ukraine as refugees.

The northwestern Kyiv suburbs of Bucha, Hostomel, Irpin and Moshchun were under fire on Saturday, the Kyiv regional administration reported, and Slavutich, 165 kilometers (103 miles) north of the capital, was “completely isolated “. Evacuations from Mariupol and other besieged towns took place along eight of the 10 humanitarian corridors, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said, and a total of 6,623 people left.

Waiting to board a bus at a triage center near the Moldova-Ukraine border, a woman named Irina said she decided to leave her home in Mykolaiv this week after a loud explosion shook the walls, waking her young daughter.

“Can you imagine the fear I had, not for myself but for my child? said Irina, who did not give her last name. “So we made the decision to get here, but I don’t know where we are going, where we will stay.” be delivered because the trucks were stopped en route by Russian troops.

Ukraine and Russia have held several rounds of talks aimed at ending the conflict but remain divided on several issues, with Moscow pushing for the demilitarization of its neighbor and kyiv demanding security guarantees.

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by telephone on Saturday for the second time this week with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel. The Kremlin said Putin “presented fundamental assessments of the course of the talks between Russian and Ukrainian representatives,” while Bettel briefed him on “contacts with the leadership of Ukraine and other countries.” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has accused Putin of using the talks as a “smokescreen” while his forces regroup. “We don’t see any serious Russian troop withdrawals or serious proposals on the table,” she told The Times of London.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, during a visit to NATO ally Bulgaria on Saturday, said the Russian invasion had “stuck on multiple fronts”, but the United States did not had yet to see any signs that Putin was deploying additional forces.

Across Ukraine, hospitals, schools and buildings where people were seeking shelter were attacked.

At least 130 people survived Wednesday’s bombing of a Mariupol theater that was being used as a shelter, but another 1,300 are believed to still be inside, Ukrainian parliament human rights commissioner Ludmyla Denisova said on Friday. .

“We pray that they are all alive, but so far there is no information about them,” Denisova told Ukrainian television.

A satellite image from Maxar Technologies released on Saturday confirmed earlier reports that much of the theater had been destroyed. It also showed the word “CHILDREN” written in Russian in large white letters outside the building.

Zaporizhzhia region in southern Ukraine announced a 38-hour curfew after two missile strikes killed nine people on Friday.

Russian forces have fired on eight towns and villages in the eastern region of Donetsk in the past 24 hours, including Mariupol, Ukraine’s national police said on Saturday. Dozens of civilians were killed or injured and at least 37 residential buildings and facilities were damaged, including a school, museum and shopping mall.

In the western city of Lviv, Ukraine’s cultural capital, which was hit by Russian missiles on Friday, military veterans were training dozens of civilians in the use of firearms and grenades.

“It’s hard, because I have really weak hands, but I can do it,” said trainee Katarina Ishchenko, 22.

(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)