Russia says it controls Mariupol, but Ukrainian forces hold out at the steel plant

Kyiv, Ukraine – Russia announced Thursday that it had taken Mariupol, presenting it as one of its first victories. in conflict After weeks of setbacks, though, Ukrainian forces remain trapped inside a large steel mill in the city and continue to launch attacks on Russian positions.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said at a meeting in the Kremlin with the president

Russian President Vladimir Putin

that Russian forces were in control of the strategic port city and that the Azovstal factory in the south, where Ukrainian forces were holed up, had been closed.

Spokesperson for the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky He said that almost all of Mariupol was under Russian control, but the fight for the plant continued.

As Washington and its allies race to resupply Ukrainian forces, President Biden said Thursday that the U.S. It will send another $800 million in military aidincluding heavy artillery, and $500 million in economic aid to Kiev.

The Russian president said the military operation in Mariupol was “successful”, although Ukrainian forces are still fighting back at a strategic steel plant. The separatists in the Donbass announced that the children there had begun a pro-Russian education. Photo: Jenkis Kondarov/Reuters

This pack contains very powerful defensive tools for our army. In particular, it is artillery, missiles and drones. This is what we expected,” Mr. Zelensky said in his nightly video address, adding that more weapons were needed.

Biden also said the United States would ban Russian ships from its ports and launch a new refugee sponsorship program to take in up to 100,000 Ukrainians who fled their country after the Russian invasion.

Russia has She tightened her grip on Mariupol From the first weeks of the invasion, pockets of resistance were expelled from residential areas. In recent weeks, it has focused on the remaining Ukrainian forces still fighting from the steel mill. There were conflicting reports about how many Ukrainian troops remained at the plant, with Russia saying about 2,000 soldiers were there.

Referring to a file Heavy losses of the Russian armed forces In the first weeks of the conflict, Putin rejected a proposal by Mr. Shoigu to storm the factory, saying that it would unnecessarily endanger the lives of Russian soldiers.

He said, “This is one of those times when we should think about…preserving the life and health of our soldiers and officers.” “Shut down this industrial area so that not even a fly can get in.”

Putin appealed to Ukrainian soldiers at the factory to lay down their weapons and said they would be dealt with in accordance with international law.

Smoke billows over the Mariupol steel plant as Ukrainian forces held firm.


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Alexander Ermoshenko/Reuters

Damaged apartment building in Mariupol.


picture:

Gabriel Michaelisi / Sisora

While Russian forces will not storm the factory, a process that could take three to four days, Mr. Shoigu said, they are likely still dealing with Ukrainian forces who continue to fire on Russian positions.

On Thursday, the Ukrainian Azov Regiment said that “despite the very difficult situation”, it had managed to destroy three Russian tanks and two armored personnel carriers in the past two days.

Major Serhii Volina, commander of the 36th Marines Brigade Defense of the Steel Factory, announced today, Wednesday, He said in a video His troops were running out of time, with only hours or days left.

He said: “The enemy forces exceed our forces by ten times,” and he was wearing a broad uniform and a head covering, and his beard was long and slender. “They control the skies, they have the upper hand in artillery, in terms of groups operating on the ground, as well as in military equipment and tanks.”

An effective blockade of the steel plant would free Russian forces who have been fighting there for weeks, giving Moscow scope to focus on controlling other parts of southern Ukraine, where its forces have made the most territorial gains. The capture of the city would also secure a land bridge between the Russian-controlled areas and Crimea, which was Moscow From Ukraine in 2014.

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshuk on Thursday called on Russia to allow humanitarian passage from the steel plant for troops and civilians sheltered there.

“They all need to withdraw from Azovstal today!”

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mail.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, the Russian Defense Ministry said it hit more than 1,000 military targets across the country overnight, including 58 command posts and 162 artillery positions.

Weeks after Russian forces withdrew from areas around Kiev, following a disastrous attack on the capital, Mr. Zelensky said authorities were working to restore order, but warned that the situation remained dire as Moscow was expected to make a more concerted effort for the land. in the east of the country.

The site of a mass grave on the northwest edge of Manush, Ukraine, about 12 miles west of Mariupol.


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Maxar Technologies/AFP/Getty Images

On Thursday, a woman from Mariupol arrived at a refugee center in Zaporizhia, Ukraine, where residents had fled the Russian offensive.


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Liu Korea/The Associated Press

“The situation in the east and south of our country remains as dire as possible,” Mr. Zelensky said in a speech on Wednesday evening. “The occupiers are not giving up trying to achieve at least some victory for themselves through a new, large-scale offensive.”

Russia’s deputy envoy to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyansky, dismissed the ceasefire plan put forward by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, saying it appeared to be an attempt to give Ukrainian forces a chance to rearm and regroup.

Speaking at the United Nations, Mr. Polyansky said: “I will not hide the fact that calls for a truce and a ceasefire seem very disingenuous and low-key.”

The Pentagon said the additional $800 million in US military aid that Biden announced on Thursday will include 72 155mm howitzers, 144,000 artillery rounds and dozens of tactical drones.

An aid package from the United States on April 13 also included heavy artillery fire: 18 howitzers. The Pentagon said two batches of aid announced last week would provide Ukraine with enough artillery systems to equip five battalions.

“We now have to speed up this assistance package to help prepare Ukraine for a Russian offensive that will be more limited in terms of geography, but not in terms of brutality,” Biden said.

The United States has sent about $3.4 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of Russian invasion.

The president said that in addition to military assistance, the United States will send an additional $500 million in economic aid to Ukraine. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told senior Ukrainian officials that the funding was to help the country pay overhead government expenditures, according to a Treasury official.

Biden said the administration would soon ask Congress to authorize more funding for Ukraine, but he did not say how much the administration would request.

Enforcement of the ban on Russian ships announced by Mr. Biden It can be difficult, because ships easily change flags and logs. Cargo volumes by Russian ships to the United States are less than 1% of total incoming cargo, according to Jane Siroca, executive director at the Port of Los Angeles.

The new refugee sponsorship program, which is expected to be launched on Monday, will become the main path the Biden administration hopes to use to fulfill its promise to take in 100,000 Ukrainian refugees.

Under the program, US citizens and groups will be required to certify their financial ability to sponsor Ukrainian refugees. If approved, Ukrainians will be allowed to enter the country on temporary humanitarian grounds.

The Ukrainian General Staff said that Russian forces continue to besiege and bombard the northern city of Kharkiv, which is located near the Russian border. The official RIA news agency reported that Russian forces with their proxies from eastern Ukraine had pushed westward to the outskirts of Kharkiv Province.

Firefighters battle a fire in a warehouse after a Russian bombing in Kharkiv, Ukraine.


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Felipe Dana/The Associated Press

Vehicles destroyed during fighting at a scrap yard in Bucha, Ukraine.


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oleg petrasyuk / epa / Shutterstock

The General Staff also said that Russian forces are forcing Ukrainian men in the occupied Kherson province to mobilize alongside the Russians and have prevented Ukrainian humanitarian aid from reaching the area.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that Russia was waiting for Kyiv’s response to a draft document containing the terms of a peace deal that Moscow said it handed over to Ukraine on Wednesday.

Mr. Zelensky told reporters after his meeting with European Council President Charles Michel on Wednesday that he had not received the Russian proposal.

The influx of dollars and euros that Russia earns from energy sales to Europe has helped mitigate the damage to the Russian economy from sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies since the invasion.

Ms Yellen on Thursday warned against a broad ban on European imports of Russian energy, so as not to cause further damage to the global economy. She told a news conference that the United States and its allies should find a way instead to reduce Russia’s revenue from energy sales.

Russia on Thursday too Banning several senior US officialsand chief executives and journalists from entering the country, citing the expanded list of sanctions against Russia under the Biden administration.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the travel ban includes the vice president

Kamala HarrisPentagon spokesman John Kirby, State Department spokesman Ned Price, founder of Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg

And

American bank corp.

CEO Brian Moynihan. Moscow had already banned Mr. Biden.

write to Thomas Grove at [email protected] and Matthew Luxmoore at [email protected]

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