Mariupol has been under attack from Russian forces and Russian-backed separatists for two months, and more than 300,000 of the city’s 450,000 residents have fled.
The soldiers remaining in the city barricaded themselves in the large Azovstal steel mills on the outskirts of the city, where an unknown number of civilians would reside.
Russia gave the soldiers several warnings and promised them free recruitment and treatment in line with the rules of the Geneva Convention for prisoners of war if they lay down their arms. But this is rejected by the Ukrainian side.
In recent days, the 11 square kilometer steelworks area has come under intense attack from aircraft, artillery and naval ships, and Ukrainian spokesmen admit that it may only take hours before the whole thing is over.
On Wednesday, an agreement was reached to create a humanitarian corridor to evacuate many civilians from Mariupol, but so far only a few seem to have used it.
– We have managed to reach a preliminary agreement on a humanitarian corridor for women, children and the elderly, Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshuk wrote on Telegram.
At the same time, Ukrainian soldiers in Azovstal received an ultimatum to surrender by 1 pm Norwegian time, but there was no indication that they intended to do so.
Just before the deadline expired, there was a desperate request for help from one of the Ukrainian officers at the steelworks.
The enemy is ten times more than us. We ask world leaders to help us. We ask them to get us out of here and take us to a third country, the prayer was from Serhyg Volgna in the 36th Marine Brigade of Ukraine.
– We are now facing our last days, if not hours, he said.
An adviser to the mayor of Mariupol describes the situation in Azovstal as “terrible” and says that about 2,000 people there, mostly women and children, are now forced to do without food, clean drinking water and fresh air.
Other Ukrainian speakers, however, denied losing the battle of Mariupol.
“The Ukrainian flag is still flying over the city,” the head of the Donetsk region’s military administration, Pavlo Kirilenko, told CNN on Tuesday.
– There are still street battles in some areas. He said the Russians don’t control them.
On Wednesday, Ukrainian speakers also claimed that they had repelled a Russian attack on the city of Izyum, south of the country’s second largest city, Kharkiv. Also in the area around Marinka in Donetsk, Ukrainian forces claimed to have inflicted losses on the Russians.
On the other hand, the village of Novodrushev in Luhansk came under a violent Russian attack on Wednesday.
– We’ve been bombed everywhere. It’s a miracle we’re still alive, says 65-year-old Nadia.
– We’ve slept in the basement since February 24, she says.
However, according to Luhansk Governor Serhiy Hajjaj, Ukrainian forces are also stationed there.
Asking for a ceasefire
There has been little or no progress in peace talks in recent weeks, and so the war is raging, despite broad international sanctions against Russia and urgent calls for a ceasefire from the leaders of Ukraine and other countries.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday issued another call urging the parties to lay down their arms for four days during the Orthodox Christian Easter holiday.
– He noted that instead of celebrating new life, Easter this year coincides with the Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine.
“Hundreds of thousands of lives are now at risk,” he added.
According to the Pentagon, the United States and other Western countries have so far delivered about 70,000 anti-tank weapons and 30 thousand anti-aircraft missiles, as well as launching ramps for them to Ukraine.
It is now feared that Russia will attack supply lines, destroy bridges, roads and railways, and blow up trains and truck poles to slow the flow of weapons.
Norway has so far sent 4,000 M72 anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine, and Defense Minister Björn Arild Gram (Sp) said on Wednesday that the country will also receive about 100 Mistral anti-aircraft missiles.
Assistance in the field of weapons is being provided despite the fact that there is always a risk that these weapons will end up with the Ukrainian government’s army over time, high-ranking sources in the Pentagon have admitted to CNN.
– We’ve had a good overview for a while, but when they end up in the fog of war, we know almost nothing. It disappears into a large black hole, and after a short time you have almost no overview, says one of the sources.
The Pentagon said on Tuesday that Ukraine had also received combat aircraft, and Germany on Wednesday did not rule out that it might be appropriate to contribute tanks.
It is not a taboo, said Defense Minister Annalina Barbuk during a visit to Latvia where she promised long-term German military support to Ukraine.
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