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50 more civilians rescued from besieged Mariupol steel plant in Ukraine

LVIV, Ukraine – Fifty more civilians, including 11 children, were rescued on Friday from tunnels under a besieged steel plant in Mariupol, where Ukrainian fighters made their last stop to prevent the city from being completely occupied. port from Moscow.

The Russian Interdepartmental Center for Humanitarian Response, a Russian government agency, said in a statement that 11 children were among 50 people rescued from the Azovstal steel plant and handed over to representatives of the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk confirmed that 50 “women, children and the elderly” had managed to leave the complex, and she and the Russian agency said rescue efforts would continue on Saturday.

The struggle for the last Ukrainian fortress in a city devastated by the Russian attack seemed increasingly desperate amid growing speculation that President Vladimir Putin wanted to end the battle for Mariupol in order to present a triumph to the Russian people in time for Victory Day Monday, the largest patriotic holiday in the Russian calendar.

About 2,000 Ukrainian fighters, according to the latest Russian estimate, are hiding in the huge labyrinth of tunnels and warehouses under the Azovstal steel plant, and have repeatedly refused to surrender. Ukraine has said several hundred civilians have also been trapped there and fears for their safety have grown as the fighting has intensified in recent days.

“Our colleagues are currently on the ground,” said UN spokesman Stefan Duzarik, referring to the latest evacuation effort. “We are in an extremely delicate phase of this operation, we are working in close coordination with both the Ukrainian and Russian authorities.”

He refused to share details “for the safety of those we try to get out of and, of course, for our staff who are there.”

Katerina Prokopenko, whose husband, Dennis Prokopenko, commands Azov Regiment troops inside the factory, made a desperate appeal for the fighters to be spared as well. He said they would be willing to go to a third country to wait for the war, but would never surrender to Russia because that would mean “filter camps, prison, torture and death.”

If nothing is done to save her husband and his men, “they will stand to the end without surrendering,” she told the Associated Press on Friday as she and relatives of some members of the constitution were driving from Italy to Poland.

It may take days to learn the details of the latest evacuations from the steel plant, as people fleeing Mariupol usually have to go through disputed areas and many checkpoints before reaching relative safety in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia. about 140 miles (230 kilometers). to the northwest.

Two previous evacuations from the factory and the city negotiated by the United Nations and the Red Cross rescued about 500 people from the steel plant and elsewhere in Mariupol. Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine’s presidential office, also said on Friday that 500 civilians had been rescued, but it was unclear whether this included the previous rescue number.

Some of the former factory evacuees spoke to the AP about the horror of death in the moldy, underground shelter with little food and water, poor medical care and diminished hope. Some said they felt guilty for leaving others behind.

“People are literally rotting like our jackets did,” said Serhii Kuzmenko, 31, who left with his wife, 8-year-old daughter and four others from their shelter, where another 30 were left behind. “They really need our help. We have to get them out. “

Fighters defending the factory told the Telegram on Friday that Russian troops had fired on an evacuation vehicle on the factory grounds. They said the car was moving towards civilians when it was hit by bombings and that one soldier was killed and six were injured.

Moscow did not immediately recognize the resumption of hostilities there on Friday.

Russia took control of Mariupol, except for the steel plant, after bombing it for two months. In anticipation of Victory Day, which marks the Soviet Union’s triumph over Nazi Germany, municipal workers and volunteers cleared what was left of the pre-war city, which had a population of over 400,000 but where perhaps 100,000 civilians remain. little food, water, electricity or heat. Bulldozers piled up debris and people swept the streets against the backdrop of empty buildings, workers repaired a warship model, and Russian flags were hoisted on utility poles.

The fall of Mariupol will deprive Ukraine of a vital port, allow Russia to build a land corridor to the Crimean peninsula, which it occupied from Ukraine in 2014, and free troops to fight elsewhere in Donbas, east of industrial area that the Kremlin says is now its main target. His arrest is also of symbolic value, as the city has been the scene of some of the worst of the war and a surprisingly fierce resistance.

Asked if Russia would soon take full control of Mariupol, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said: “Mariupol will never fall. I’m not talking about heroism or anything.”

“It is already damaged,” he told a meeting at London’s Chatham House think tank. He also said he remained open to negotiations with Russia, but reiterated that Moscow must withdraw its forces.

As they rushed to the factory, Russian forces tried to make significant gains elsewhere, 10 weeks into a devastating war that killed thousands, forced millions to flee the country, and razed large areas of cities.

Ukrainian officials have warned residents to be vigilant and heed warnings of airstrikes, saying the risk of mass bombings had risen as Victory Day approached. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said authorities would step up street patrols in the capital.

The Ukrainian army’s general staff said on Friday that his forces had repulsed 11 attacks in Donbas and destroyed tanks and armored vehicles, further disappointing Putin’s ambitions after his failed attempt to seize Kyiv. Russia did not immediately acknowledge these losses.

The British Ministry of Defense said that Russia may find it difficult to carry out its plan in Donbass, partly because it has been bogged down in the Mariupol plant. Fighting at the plant “has cost staff, equipment and ammunition to Russia,” he said.

The Ukrainian military also said it had made progress in the northeastern Kharkiv region, retaking five villages and a sixth.

In other developments:

– A Ukrainian army brigade said it used a US “suicide” Switchblade drone against Russian forces in a possible first recorded use of such a weapon by Ukraine in battle.

– The Ukrainian governor of the eastern region of Luhansk said that the inhabitants of the city of Kremlin are terrified by Russian troops trying to cross the river Seversky Donets. Serhiy Haidai accused the Russian troops of checking phones and “forcibly disappearing Ukrainian patriots”. His statements were not immediately verified.

– Haidia also said that more than 15,000 people remain in Severodonetsk, a city in the Luhansk region that is considered Russia’s main target. He said three people had left Severodonetsk on Friday and that he believed most residents wanted to stay even if “whole blocks of houses were burning”.

– The small village of Nekhoteevk, in the southern Belgorod region of Russia bordering Ukraine, was evacuated on Friday due to bombardment from Ukrainian territory, according to the governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov. His allegations could not be verified immediately.

Russian state officials say two self-proclaimed separatist democracies in Ukraine’s industrial east – the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic – have appointed special ambassadors to Moscow. A spokesman for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, Oleg Nikolenko, said the ambassadors were “traitors” and would likely be charged with treason.

Copyright © 2022 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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50 more civilians rescued from besieged Mariupol steel plant in Ukraine Source link 50 more civilians rescued from besieged Mariupol steel plant in Ukraine

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