Russia attacks Mariupol, attacks other Ukrainian cities
Kyiv, Ukraine >> Russian troops on Sunday vandalized a huge steel mill that housed the last nest of resistance in Mariupol, a southern Ukrainian city that has suffered for six weeks under siege and whose capture would aid Moscow’s plans for a full-scale offensive in the east of the country.
As the last Ukrainian militants in Mariupol refuse to surrender, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia is “deliberately trying to destroy everyone who is there.” He said Ukraine needs more heavy weapons from the West immediately if it has any chance of saving the Sea of Azov port city.
“Either our partners give Ukraine all the necessary heavy weapons, the planes, and without exaggeration, immediately, so that we can reduce the occupying pressure on Mariupol and break the blockade,” he said, “or we do it through negotiations, in which the role of our partners should be crucial.”
Earlier, Zelenskyi told Ukrainian journalists that the prolonged siege of Mariupol, which has taken a terrible toll on trapped and starving civilians, could derail attempts to negotiate an end to the war.
A spokesman for Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Saturday that Ukrainian forces had been driven out of most of the city, remaining only at the Azovstal Steelworks, where tunnels allow defenders to hide and resist until they run out of ammunition .
The Russians already control what remains of the city after weeks of bombardment. Attacking the steel mill to take the rest is part of Russia’s preparations for the expected attack in eastern Ukraine.
The capture of Mariupol would allow Russian forces to the south, advancing via the annexed Crimean peninsula, to fully link up with troops in the Donbass region, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland and the focus of the expected offensive.
Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said Sunday that Mariupol’s defenders have tied down significant Russian forces to lay siege to the city. She described the city as a “shield in defense of Ukraine” preventing Russian troops surrounding the city from advancing to other areas of the country.
Malyar said the Russians continued to hit Mariupol with airstrikes and appeared to be preparing an amphibious landing to bolster their forces in the city.
Meanwhile, isolated Russian attacks elsewhere in Ukraine were an explosive reminder to Ukrainians and their Western backers that the entire country remains threatened with invasion in its eighth week.
After the failure to capture the Ukrainian capital and the humiliating loss of the Black Sea Fleet’s flagship, the Russian military command promised to step up missile attacks on the capital, Kyiv. The Russians said they hit an armored vehicle factory on Saturday, a day after attacking a missile factory.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said one person was killed and several injured in Saturday’s strike. He advised residents who fled the city earlier in the war not to return.
“We do not rule out further strikes in the capital,” he said. “If you have the opportunity to stay a little longer in the cities where it’s safer, do it.”
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the plant is among several Ukrainian military sites hit with “air-launched long-range high-precision weapons.” The Office of the President of Ukraine reported rocket attacks and shelling in eight regions of the country between Friday and Saturday.
The governor of the Lviv region in western Ukraine, which was only sporadically affected by the violence of the war, reported airstrikes on the region by Russian Su-35 planes from neighboring Belarus.
In Kharkiv in the northeast, Mayor Ihor Terekhov said three people were killed and 34 injured on Saturday. An explosion believed to have been caused by a missile sent rescue workers near an outdoor market. Workers said one person was killed and at least 18 injured.
“All windows, all furniture, everything destroyed. And the door too,” said the amazed resident Valentina Ulianova.
The day before, rockets hit a residential area of Kharkiv, killing a 15-year-old boy, a toddler and at least eight other people in Ukraine’s second-biggest city, officials said.
Nate Mook, a member of the NGO World Central Kitchen, which is run by celebrity chef José Andrés, said in a tweet that four workers in Kharkiv were injured in a strike. Andrés tweeted that staff were unnerved but safe.
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, who met Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week – the first European leader to do so since the invasion began on February 24 – said the Russian president was “in his own logic of war” towards Ukraine.
In an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, Nehammer said he believed Putin believed he was winning the war and “we need to look him in the eye and confront him with what we’re seeing in Ukraine.”
Nehammer said he told Putin what he saw during a visit to the Kiev suburb of Bucha, where more than 350 bodies were found along with evidence of killings and torture under Russian occupation, and “it was not a friendly conversation.”
Zelenskyy estimates that 2,500 to 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers died in the war and around 10,000 were injured. Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s office said Saturday that at least 200 children were killed and more than 360 injured.
Russian forces have also captured around 700 Ukrainian soldiers and more than 1,000 civilians, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Saturday. Ukraine holds about the same number of Russian troops as prisoners and intends to arrange an exchange, but wants the release of civilians “unconditionally,” she said.
Russia’s warning of increased attacks on Kyiv came after it accused Ukraine on Thursday of injuring seven people and damaging about 100 residential buildings in airstrikes in Bryansk, a region bordering Ukraine. Ukrainian officials have not confirmed hitting targets in Russia.
Russian Major General Vladimir Frolov, whose troops were among those besieging Mariupol, was buried in St Petersburg on Saturday after dying in combat, Governor Alexander Beglov said. Ukraine said several Russian generals and dozens of other senior officers were killed in the war.