Zelensky claims situation in city of Mariupol is 'inhuman'
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More than 1,000 civilians remain hidden in the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works, as the massive plant becomes the last holdout of resistance for Ukraine forces. Ukrainian Commander of the 36th Separate Marine Brigade Serhiy Volyna made an appeal from inside the steelworks asking for world leaders to evacuate civilians and military to a third country, admitting their resistance is severely outnumbered and there are hundreds wounded.
“This could be the last appeal of our lives,” he said. “We are probably facing our last days, if not hours.
“The enemy is outnumbering us 10 to 1. They have the advantage in the air, in artillery, in their forces on land, in equipment and in tanks.
“All of us – Mariupol military battalion of soldiers, more than 500 wounded, and hundreds of civilians including women and children, we plead to take us to safety on the territory of a third party state,” he said in a video statement that was posted to Twitter.
Located in the southeast of Ukraine, Mariupol has been heavily attacked by Russian forces with buildings and houses razed to the ground by artillery and missiles with over 90% of the city damaged.
The city is the tenth largest in Ukraine, with a population of approximately 450,000 in pre-war times.
But amid the war, the Mariupol council recently confirmed as many as 22,000 civilians have died, while several thousand have been evacuated.
Yesterday (Wednesday) Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced that an agreement has been made with Moscow allowing some women, children and elderly civilians to be evacuated from the city.
But the Deputy PM admitted “challenges” could still occur. Russian forces have been accused of breaking agreed humanitarian corridors throughout Ukraine to evacuate citizens since the war began in February.
Despite the devastation to the city, Mariupol is still vitally important to Russia because taking control of the city paves way for a new land corridor to Donbas, and Crimea allowing Russia to control operations on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast. Economically Mariupol is a key port city and a crucial site for exports in and out of Ukraine.
With those in Mariupol fighting for their lives, analysts say it would be a major victory for the Kremlin should the city fall.
“The capture of Mariupol is a centrepiece of Russia’s strategy to create a land bridge linking illegally seized Crimea with the Russian mainland. It is also symbolically important for Mr Putin in many ways, including possibly wiping out the base of the Avoz battalion. For Ukraine, the loss of Mariupol would mean the loss of an important commercial port and industrial centre,” Global affairs analyst Michael Bociurkiw said.
And in recent weeks Mariupol has seen British volunteers fighting alongside the Ukrainian army surrender to Russian forces as the Kremlin further tightens its military grip on the besieged city.
The capture of Britons Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin has since seen both volunteers filmed on Russian state TV requesting that Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrange their release by organising a prisoner exchange.
But in recent days Russia’s military offensive has also shifted to the Donbas region in Ukraine’s east, as Moscow makes a final push to take two eastern provinces it claims as independent on behalf of Russian separatists.
On Monday Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Battle of Donbas had begun.
“No matter how many Russian troops they send there, we will fight. We will defend ourselves,” he said.
Despite a 300 mile offensive from Russian soldiers, officials in Ukraine have remained confident over resisting attacks.
Andriy Yermak, Zelenskys chief of staff, is adamant that Ukrainian forces can successfully defend the region in what he said is the “second phase of the war”, while Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Zelensky, insisted the battle in Donbas “will not go in Russia’s favour.”
But it was reported yesterday (Wednesday) that Russian forces have already seized Kreminna, a city in the Donbas region of more than 18,000 people, the first city known to be captured in Russia’s assault on eastern Ukraine.
Serhiy Gaidai, the Governor of the Luhansk region, told a briefing that Russian attacks “came from all sides” and that the city is now under Russian control.
Elsewhere, in northeast Ukraine, Kharkiv, the second-largest city in the country, is being constantly bombarded with shelling from Russian forces.
Kharkiv mayor Ihor Terekhov said four people were killed on Tuesday with a further 14 wounded after Russian rockets hit civilian districts in the city.
As the war continues in Ukraine’s east, the UK, the United States and other western allies have announced they will send Ukraine more artillery for their defence efforts.
U.S. President Joe Biden is also expected to announce a new military aid package worth another $800 million.
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