Ukraine says new evacuation from Mariupol has begun, despite reports of fighting
- Civilians trapped in steel mills besieged by Russia
- Fighting was reported along the eastern and southern front
- Kremlin: Time to celebrate Victory Day in Mariupol will come
- 400 medical centers destroyed, damaged -Zelenskiy
- The EU will modify its sanctions plan to win the Eastern States
KYIV, May 6 (Reuters) – Ukraine said a new attempt began on Friday to evacuate dozens of civilians trapped in a crumbling steelworks in the city of Mariupol, after bloody fighting with Russian forces thwarted efforts to bring them to safety the day before. .
Mariupol, a strategic southern port on the Sea of Azov, endured the most destructive siege of the 10-week war and the sprawling Soviet-era Azovstal steelworks is the last part of the city still in ruins. hands of recalcitrant Ukrainian fighters.
UN-sponsored evacuations of some of the hundreds of civilians who had taken refuge in the factory’s network of tunnels and bunkers began last weekend, but have been halted in recent days by renewed fighting .
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“The next stage of the rescue of our people from Azovstal is underway at the moment. Information on the results will be provided later,” said Andriy Yermak, Ukrainian presidential staff chief. He gave no further details.
Russia has turned its heaviest firepower on eastern and southern Ukraine, after failing to take the capital kyiv in the first weeks of its February 24 invasion. The new front aims to limit Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea, vital for its grain and metal exports, and to link Russian-held territory in the east to the Crimean peninsula, seized by Moscow. in 2014.
Moscow calls its actions a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and rid it of anti-Russian nationalism fomented by the West. Ukraine and the West say that Russia has launched an unprovoked war of aggression. More than 5 million Ukrainians have fled abroad since the start of the invasion.
Ukraine’s general staff said on Friday that Russian forces were continuing their “attempts to take complete control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions”, areas in the east partially seized by Moscow-backed separatists in 2014.
The Russian Defense Ministry said it destroyed a major ammunition depot in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk in a missile strike. He also said his air defenses shot down two Ukrainian warplanes in the Luhansk region.
It has not been possible to independently verify the statements of either party regarding events on the battlefield.
In Mariupol, the Ukrainian General Staff said Russian efforts to overrun the Azovstal plant had resumed, with air support.
About 200 civilians remained trapped underground in the factory with little food or water.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow was ready to provide safe passage for civilians, but reiterated calls for Ukrainian forces inside to disarm.
The Kremlin denies Ukrainian claims that Russian troops stormed the factory in recent days and said humanitarian corridors were in place. The Russian army has promised to suspend its activities for the next two days to allow civilians to leave.
Putin declared victory in Mariupol on April 21 and ordered his forces to seal off the factory.
Ukrainian officials have said Russia could step up its offensive before May 9, when Moscow will commemorate the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
“The time will come to mark Victory Day in Mariupol,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a press briefing on Friday when asked about plans for May 9 in the territory recently seized by Russian-backed forces.
The stubborn Ukrainian defense of Azovstal underscored Russia’s failure to take the major cities in a war that united Western powers by arming kyiv and punishing Moscow with the toughest sanctions ever imposed on a major power.
Economic measures by Washington and European allies have crippled Russia’s economy by $1.8 trillion, while billions of dollars in military aid have helped Ukraine thwart the invasion.
The European Union’s proposed new sanctions package, which includes an oil embargo, has faced opposition from some member states, with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban saying it would amount to an ‘atomic bomb’ being dropped on the economy.
The European Commission has proposed changes to the plan to give Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic more time to adjust to the embargo and help upgrade their own oil infrastructure, three European sources told Reuters. . Read more
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Thursday that nearly 400 hospitals and other medical facilities in the country had been destroyed or damaged since the invasion.
“It equates to a complete lack of medicine for cancer patients. It means extreme hardship or a complete lack of insulin for diabetes,” Zelenskiy said in a video address to a medical charity group. “It is impossible to do surgery. It even means, quite simply, a lack of antibiotics.”
The Kremlin claims to only target military or strategic sites and not civilians. The Ukrainian daily reports civilian casualties in Russian bombings and battles and accuses Russia of war crimes. Russia denies the allegations.
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Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Additional reporting by Alessandra Prentice, Natalia Zinets, Ronald Popeski and Reuters bureaus; Written by Michael Perry and Alex Richardson; Editing by Stephen Coates and Mark Heinrich
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