Mariupol enrages in battle as Putin promises an evacuation attempt

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Mariupol enrages in battle as Putin promises an evacuation attempt

Ukrainian civilians including women and children remained trapped on Thursday in underground bunkers at a steelworks in the ruined city of Mariupol, as “bloody clashes” continued in a final push to seize the port city. 

Captain Sviatoslav Palamar, a deputy commander of Ukraine’s Azov Regiment, said Russian forces had attacked the plant for a third day in violation of an earlier pledge by Moscow to allow civilian evacuations.  

“Heavy, bloody fighting is going on,” Palamar said in a video posted to Telegram. “Yet again, the Russians have not kept the promise of a ceasefire and have not given an opportunity for the civilians who seek shelter … in basements of the plant to evacuate,” he said. 

Petro Andriushchenko, an advisor to Mariupol’s mayor, painted a bleak picture of conditions at the plant on Telegram.

“Shelling and assault without a break,” he wrote. “In some places, hostilities are already behind the fence of the plant.

“The last 11 square kilometers of freedom in Mariupol have been turned into hell,” he added.

Two women and a child from Mariupol arrive at a refugee center in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on May 3, 2022.
Two women and a child from Mariupol arrive at a refugee center in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on May 3, 2022.
AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka, File

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory in Mariupol last month, after a long and bloody siege. 

The city’s remaining defenders — some 2,000 troops with the Ukrainian marines, national guard, and Azov Regiment — remain fortified in the sprawling Azovstal steelworks on the coast of the Sea of Azov.

A few hundred civilians are believed to remain in the plant as well, taking shelter in a series of bunkers and tunnels.

Russian forces have been bombarding the plant for weeks.

People on bikes watch smoke rise from a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works as Russian forces continue to hammer on Mariupol, Ukraine on May 2, 2022.
People on bikes watch smoke rise from a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works as Russian forces continue to hammer on Mariupol, Ukraine on May 2, 2022.
REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

But Putin told Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in a phone call Thursday that Russia was still prepared to provide safe passage for civilians in the plant. 

A coordinated effort by the United Nations and the Red Cross evacuated over 100 civilians earlier this week. Ukrainian authorities say further evacuation efforts were stymied by Russian attacks on the plant. 

Bennett said the Russian leader “promised to allow the evacuation of civilians, including wounded civilians, through a UN and Red Cross humanitarian corridor.”

In the same phone call, Bennett said he’d accepted an apology from Putin over the Kremlin’s contention — in an interview earlier this week — that Adolf Hitler had had “Jewish origins.” 

The apology did not appear in a Russian readout of the call. 

Meanwhile, fighting continued in the eastern Donbas region Thursday, as Russian forces attacked key points along the eastern front. 

Ukrainian forces were bracing for Russian action in what may be an attempt to secure something that Putin can claim as a win on Victory Day, a Russian holiday commemorating the Soviet Union’s triumph over Nazi Germany. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin insists Russian forces will allow civilians to evacuate from the besieged Azovstal steelworks plant.
Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Andriushchenko claimed Thursday that Russian forces occupying Mariupol are planning to dress up Ukrainian civilians as “prisoners of war” in military uniforms as part of a “grotesque” parade that will coincide with the holiday’s celebrations.

With Post wires

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