An adviser to the Ukrainian presidential office said Russian forces were attacking a steel mill which is the last defense bastion of Ukrainian forces in the strategic port city of Mariupol.
Oleksiy Arestovich, adviser to the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, told a briefing on Saturday that Russian forces had resumed airstrikes on the Azovstal steel plant and were trying to storm it.
“The enemy is trying to completely suppress the resistance of the Mariupol defenders in the Azovstal region,” Arestovich said.
Arestovich’s statement came two days after Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to President Vladimir Putin that all of Mariupol except Azovstal had been ‘liberated’ by the Russians .
Putin ordered the Russian military not to storm the factory and blockade it in an apparent attempt to snuff out the remaining pocket of resistance there.
Ukrainian officials estimated that around 2,000 of their troops were inside the plant, along with around 1,000 sheltered in the facility’s underground tunnels.
Arestovich said Ukrainian fighters were still holding their own despite renewed attacks and trying to counter them.
Women and children would hold in the underground bunkers of the steel complex. In a video released Saturday by the Ukrainian Azov Battalion, they said they wanted to return home to their families.
The video showed women wearing the Azovstal uniform design, which Reuters has verified, matching images in the file. Reuters could not independently verify where and when the video was taken.
Mariupol has been reduced largely to smoldering rubble after weeks of bombardment, and Russian state television showed the flag of pro-Moscow Donetsk separatists raised on what it said is the highest point in the city, his television tower. He also showed what he said was the main building of the Azovstal Steelworks in flames.
Under cover of darkness, Ukrainian forces managed to deliver weapons to besieged steel mills by helicopter, said Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council.
Russian troops, meanwhile, continue to fight for full control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that make up Donbass in eastern Ukraine. They seek to secure “a land route between these territories and occupied Crimea” by wiping out the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol, the Ukrainian General Staff said in its morning update.
In the past 24 hours, Ukrainian forces repelled eight Russian attacks in the two regions, destroying nine tanks, 18 armored units and 13 vehicles, one tanker and three artillery systems, the General Staff said.
“The units of the Russian occupier are regrouping. The Russian enemy continues to launch missiles and bombardments on military and civilian infrastructure,” the general staff said on its Facebook page.
“Not all of them survived”
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said on Saturday that two people had been killed by Russian shelling in the town of Popasna.
“In addition to the fact that street fighting continues in the city for several weeks, the Russian army constantly fires at multi-storey residential buildings and private houses,” Haidai wrote on the Instagram messaging app. “Just yesterday, local residents withstood five enemy artillery attacks. Not all of them survived.”
The UK Ministry of Defense said that despite their increased activity, “Russian forces have made no major gains in the past 24 hours as Ukrainian counterattacks continue to hamper efforts.”
Russia has still not established air or sea control due to Ukrainian resistance, and despite the Russian President’s declaration of victory in Mariupol, “heavy fighting continues to take place, frustrating Russian attempts to capture the city , thus further slowing down their desired advancement in the Donbass.” “, said the Ministry of Defense.
Overall, the Kremlin has thrown more than 100,000 troops and mercenaries from Syria and Libya into the fight in Ukraine and is deploying more forces in the country every day, Danilov said.
“We have a difficult situation, but our army is defending our state,” he said.
2nd apparent mass grave site seen
Latest satellite photos from Maxar Technologies revealed what appeared to be a second mass grave site near Mariupol. The site of a cemetery in the town of Vynohradne has several newly dug parallel trenches measuring about 40 meters in length, Maxar said in a statement.
A day earlier, Maxar posted photos of what appeared to be rows upon rows of more than 200 freshly dug mass graves next to a cemetery in the town of Manhush, outside Mariupol. This prompted Ukrainians to accuse the Russians of trying to cover up the massacre of civilians in the city.
“This confirms once again that the occupiers are organizing the collection, burial and cremation of deceased residents in all areas of the city,” Petro Andryushchenko, adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, said on the messaging app. Telegram.
Ukrainians estimated that the graves seen in photos released Thursday could contain 9,000 bodies. The Kremlin did not respond to satellite images.
More than 100,000 people – compared to a pre-war population of around 430,000 – would be trapped in Mariupol with little food, water or heat, and more than 20,000 civilians were killed during the siege almost two months, according to the Ukrainian authorities.
Most attempts to evacuate civilians from the city failed due to what the Ukrainians said continued Russian shelling.