Russia hits eastern towns amid hopes for more evacuations from steel mill

ZAPPORIZZIA, Ukraine – Russian forces fired artillery shells at cities in eastern Ukraine, killing and wounding dozens of civilians and storming a bomb blast near the city of Mariupol, removing hundreds of protesters by truck.

The governor of the eastern Donetsk region said Russian attacks left 21 dead on Tuesday, the highest death toll since April 8, when a rocket attack on the Kramatorsk train station killed at least 59 people.

Adding pressure to Moscow, the European Union leader on Wednesday called on the 27-nation bloc to ban imports of Russian oil in a new wave of sanctions.

“We will ensure that we gradually phase out Russian oil on a regular basis, in a way that allows us and our partners to secure alternative supply routes and minimize the impact on world markets,” the European Parliament President told the European Parliament. von der Layen. in Strasbourg, France. He also suggested that Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, and two other major banks be disconnected from the international banking system SWIFT.

As a result of the evacuation effort over the weekend, 101 people – including women, the elderly and 17 children as young as 6 months old – left warehouses under Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks to “see the light of day after two months”. said Osnat Lubrani. the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Ukraine.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said authorities planned on Wednesday to continue efforts to evacuate civilians from Mariupol and nearby areas, if security conditions allow. Lubrani also expressed hope for further evacuations, but said none had been resolved.

One displaced man said he went to sleep at the factory every night fearing he would wake up.

“You can not imagine how scary it is when you sit in a bomb shelter, in a damp, damp basement, and bounce and tremble,” said Elina Tsimbulchenko, 54, as she arrived in the Ukrainian-controlled city. Zaporizhzhia, about 140 miles (230 km) northwest of Mariupol, accompanied by buses and ambulances.

He said that if the shelter was hit by a bomb like the ones that left the huge craters he saw the two times it came out, “we would all be done”.

The displaced, a few of whom cried, arrived from the buses to a tent that offered food, diapers and connections to the outside world. Some of the displaced were browsing shelves for clothing donations, including new underwear.

The news for those left behind was gloomier. Ukrainian commanders said Russian forces, backed by tanks, began to invade the extensive factory, which includes a maze of tunnels and warehouses spanning 11 square kilometers (4 square miles).

It was not clear how many Ukrainian fighters were still inside, but the Russians put the number at about 2,000 in recent weeks and 500 reported being wounded. Several hundred citizens also remained there, said Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Iryna Vereshchuk.

“We will do everything possible to repel the attack, but we are calling for urgent measures to evacuate the civilians who remain inside the factory and to evacuate them safely,” said Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of Ukraine’s Azov regiment. . the Telegram messaging application.

He added that throughout the night, the factory was hit by naval artillery fire and air raids. Two civilian women were killed and 10 civilians were injured, he said.

In a video overnight speech, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that by invading the steel plant, Russian forces had violated safe evacuation agreements. He said the previous evacuations “are not yet a victory, but they are already a result. I believe there is still a chance to save other people.”

Among those killed in new attacks in Donetsk on Tuesday were 10 people at a chemical plant in the city of Avdivka, Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kirilenko said.

“The Russians knew exactly where to aim – the workers had just finished their shift and were waiting for a bus at a bus stop to take them home,” he wrote in a Telegram post. “Another cynical crime by Russians in our land.”

Two other civilians were killed and two others were injured in overnight bombings in the neighboring Luhansk region, Governor Serhiy Haidai said, adding that Russian attacks were intensifying.

Right in the north, near the strategic junction of the city of Izyum, Russia has deployed 22 regular battalion groups in an effort to advance along the northern axis of the Donbas, the British Ministry of Defense said on Wednesday. Each unit usually numbers about 800 soldiers.

Despite trying to break through Ukrainian defenses and build momentum, Russia is likely to move beyond the Izyum to capture the cities of Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk as they try to cut off Ukrainian forces in the region, according to the British assessment. However, Moscow’s push was slow as Ukrainian fighters dug in and used long-range weapons, such as shells, to target the Russians.

The United States believes that in recent days the Ukrainians have pushed Russian forces about 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Kharkov, which is outside Donbass, but is the key to the attack there. The extension of the front line distance makes it more difficult for Russia to target the city with artillery fire.

Ukraine’s eastern industrial heart, Donbass, which includes Donetsk and Luhansk, remains Moscow’s stated target after failing to occupy Kyiv in the first weeks of the war.

Explosions were also heard in Lviv, in western Ukraine, near the Polish border. The blasts damaged three electricity substations, cutting off electricity in parts of the city and cutting off water supply and injuring two people, the mayor said. Lviv was a gateway for weapons supplied by NATO and a refuge for those fleeing fighting in the east.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Russian aircraft and artillery hit hundreds of targets yesterday, including strongholds, command posts, artillery positions, fuel and ammunition depots, and ammunition equipment.

Ukrainian authorities say the Russians also attacked at least half a dozen train stations across the country.

The attack on the Azovstal steel plant began almost two weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his army not to invade the plant to finish off the defenders but to block it. The first – and so far only – civilians evacuated from the damaged factory came out during a brief ceasefire at a UN / Red Cross-supervised operation.

“I am very happy to be on Ukrainian soil,” said a woman who gave only her first name, Anna, and arrived with two children, aged 1 and 9. “We thought we would not leave, to be honest.”

In addition to the 101 people who left the steelworks, 58 joined the escort in a town on the outskirts of Mariupol, Lubrani said. About 30 people who left the factory decided to stay back in Mariupol to try to find out if their loved ones were alive, Lubrani said. A total of 127 evacuees arrived in Zaporizhia, he said.

The Russian military said earlier that some of the evacuees had chosen to remain in separatist-held areas in favor of Moscow.

Mariupol came to symbolize the human misery caused by the war. The two-month siege of the strategic southern port by the Russians has trapped civilians with little or no food, water, medicine or heat, as Moscow forces pounded the city into rubble. Especially the plant has shocked the outside world.

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.

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

Russia hits eastern towns amid hopes for more evacuations from steel mill Source link Russia hits eastern towns amid hopes for more evacuations from steel mill

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