Hundreds of women and children remain trapped at a Mariupol steelworks amid scenes of “heavy, bloody fighting” as Russian forces scramble to seize control of the devastated city’s last stronghold.
The fierce attacks come amid growing speculation Vladimir Putin wants to present the Russian people with a major success on the battlefield – or herald an escalation of the war – in time for Monday’s Victory Day.
Some 2,000 Ukrainian fighters and an estimated 200 civilians are still hiding in the tunnels and bunkers beneath the sprawling Azovstal Steelworks, the last pocket of resistance in a city that has been largely reduced to rubble.
Captain Svyatoslav Palamar, who led defenders into the mill as deputy commander of Ukraine’s Azov regiment, told Ukrainian TV: “Heavy, bloody fighting is taking place.”
Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, said the Russians managed to get inside with the help of an electrician who was aware of the arrangement.
He added: “He showed them the underground tunnels that lead to the factory.
“Yesterday the Russians started storming these tunnels, using the information they received from the traitor.”
The Kremlin denied that its troops would attack the plant.
The fall of Mariupol would be a great success for Moscow.
It would deprive Ukraine of a vital port and allow Russia to establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it took from Ukraine in 2014.
Victory would also free up troops to fight elsewhere in the Donbass, the eastern industrial region the Kremlin now says is its main target.
Captain Palamar asked international allies to pressure Russia to rescue more civilians from the steel mill, along with wounded combatants who are “dying in agony from lack of proper treatment.”
The Kremlin calls on the fighters to surrender. You refused. Russia has also accused them of preventing the civilians from leaving.
Kateryna Prokopenko, the wife of the commander of the Azov regiment Denys Prokopenko, said that without an evacuation operation by the European leaders, the troops inside would die.
She told the Associated Press, “They stand to the end. They only hope for a miracle. They will not surrender.”
Ms Prokopenko described a phone call with her husband in which he said he would love her forever, adding: “I’m going crazy about it. It sounded like parting words.
“You’ve held out too long and deserve to be saved.”
Meanwhile, ten weeks into the devastating war, Ukraine’s military claimed it had retaken some areas in the south and repulsed other attacks in the east, further daunting Putin’s ambitions after his failed attempt to take Kyiv.
Ukrainian and Russian forces are now fighting village by village.
The Chief of the British Armed Forces, Chief of Defense Staff Admiral Tony Radakin, said Putin was trying to “rush to a tactical victory” ahead of Victory Day.
But he said Russian forces are struggling to gain momentum in Donbass.
Admiral Radakin told Talk TV that Russia is deploying missiles and weapons on such a scale that it is engaged in a “logistics war” to keep supplies going. He added: “It’s going to be a big hit.”
Fearing fresh attacks around Victory Day, the mayor of the western Ukrainian city of Ivano-Frankivsk urged residents to go to the countryside over the long weekend and warned them not to gather in public places.
And the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia, a key transit point for evacuees from Mariupol, announced a curfew from Sunday evening until Tuesday morning.
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https://metro.co.uk/2022/05/05/mariupol-hundreds-trapped-amid-heavy-bloody-fighting-at-steelworks-16596082/ Mariupol: Hundreds of people trapped in steel mills in "heavy, bloody fighting".