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Mariupol: Hundreds of people trapped in steel mills in “heavy, bloody fighting”.

Hundreds of civilians remain trapped in

Some 2,000 Ukrainian militants and an estimated 200 civilians are still hiding in the tunnels and bunkers beneath the sprawling Azovstal Steelworks (Image: AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov)

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.

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In this handout photo from a video released by the press service of the Ministry of Interior of the Donetsk People's Republic on Wednesday, May 4, 2022, smoke rises from the Azovstal Metallurgical Combine in Mariupol, located on the territory of the Government of the Donetsk People's Republic in located in eastern Ukraine. Heavy fighting rages on at the besieged Mariupol Steelworks as Russian forces seek to dispatch the city's last defenders and complete the capture of the strategically important port. (Press service of the Ministry of Interior of the Donetsk People's Republic via AP)

Smoke rises from the Azovstal Metallurgical Combine in Mariupol (Image: AP)

MARIUPOL, UKRAINE - MAY 4: A DPR Army fighter is seen in front of the tank as Russian attacks continue on May 4, 2022 in Mariupol, Ukraine. Mariupol residents at this time are trying to survive on their own and in evacuation camps. (Photo by Leon Klein/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

A DPR Army fighter is seen in front of the tank as Russian attacks continue in Mariupol (Image: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

ALTERNATIVE HARVEST - Smoke billows over the Azovstal Steelworks in the city of Mariupol on April 29, 2022 amid ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine. The mayor of the devastated Ukrainian city of Mariupol said on May 4, 2022 that contact had been lost with Ukrainian forces holed up at the Azovstal Steel Plant amid fierce fighting with Russian troops. - *EDITORS NOTE: This image was taken during a media tour organized by the Russian Army.* (Photo by Andrey BORODULIN/AFP) (Photo by ANDREY BORODULIN/AFP via Getty Images)

The mayor of the devastated Ukrainian city of Mariupol said on May 4 that contact had been lost with Ukrainian forces hiding at the Azovstal Steel Plant (Image: AFP via Getty Images).

This satellite image acquired by Planet Labs PBC shows damage at the Azovstal Steel Plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, May 4, 2022. Russian forces began storming the bombed-out Mariupol Steel Plant on Tuesday, May 3, 2022 after numerous take the mill came civilians had been evacuated from the factory's underground tunnels after weeks of shelling. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

Satellite image shows damage at Azovstal steelworks (Image: AP)

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.

Kyiv, Ukraine – April 30: Olha, 23, whose fiance?? serves in the Azov Battalion in Mariupol, holds a banner that reads

Olha, 23, whose fiancée serves in the Azov Battalion in Mariupol, holds a banner that reads “Russian army is killing our prisoners” during a demonstration in support of Mariupol’s defenders (Image: Getty)

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.

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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.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

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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".

Justin Scacco

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