ZAPORIJJIA, Ukraine – The Russian military says its artillery hit more than 400 Ukrainian targets on the last day.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said Tuesday that those targets included Ukrainian artillery positions, troop strongholds and two fuel depots.
Konashenkov added that Russian planes hit 39 other targets, including troop and weapon gathering places and two command posts.
A US-supplied artillery radar, four air defense radars and six ammunition depots were among the targets destroyed by precision-guided weapons on the last day, according to Konashenkov, which could not be independently verified.
Russian forces in particular began storming the steel mill containing the last resisters in Mariupol on Tuesday, as dozens of civilians evacuated from the bombed plant over the weekend reached safer territory and fled, with constant horror. who have lived due to the constant bombing.
UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Ukraine, Osnat Lubrani, explained that thanks to the evacuation efforts, “101 women, men, children and the elderly were finally able to leave the shelters under the Azovstal steel mills and see the light of day for the first time in two months.
One lady who was evacuated said she went to bed every night fearing she would never wake up again.
“You don’t know how scary it is to sit in a damp basement that vibrates constantly,” said Yelena Tsybulchenko when she arrived in the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia about 230 kilometers northwest of Mariupol.
“We prayed to God that the missiles would pass over the factory, because if they hit our shelters, we would all be dead,” he said.
The news was less encouraging for those still in the factory. Ukrainian commanders said Russian forces, supported by armored vehicles, have begun storming the factory, which includes a labyrinth of underground tunnels and shelters spread over 11 square kilometers.
The number of Ukrainian fighters still captured inside was unclear, but the Russians estimated the number at around 2,000 in the past few weeks, of which 500 were reportedly injured. Several hundred civilians are also stranded there, according to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.
“We will do everything possible to repel the assault, but we call for immediate action to help evacuate the civilians still in the factory and bring them back to safety,” wrote the deputy commander of the regiment. The Ukrainian Azov, Sviatoslav Palamar, through the Telegram message app.
According to Mr. Palamar, the factory was subjected to naval artillery fire and air strikes throughout the night. Two civilian women were killed in the strikes, which injured another 10 people.
UN Lubrani said she hoped further evacuations would take place, but nothing could be confirmed so far.
In a shelter center in Zaporizhzhia, wheelchairs were lined up, children’s shoes dangled from a cart, and toys were piled up. Everyone was waiting for the first convoy of civilians, whose evacuation is handled by the United Nations and the Red Cross.
Their arrival would represent a rare ray of hope in the war that has been going on for nearly 10 weeks. The Russian invasion of Ukraine killed thousands, forced millions of people to flee the country, devastated towns and villages, and shifted the post-Cold War balance in Eastern Europe.
“In recent days, traveling with the displaced, I have heard frail mothers, children and grandparents talk about the trauma of living day after day under relentless bombardment still fearing death. There was a lack of water and food, ”Ms. Lubrani said.
Ms. Lubrani said many of the displaced people rushed to the steel mills for security reasons and were trapped.
In addition to the 101 people evacuated from the steel plant, 58 joined the convoy in a town on the outskirts of Mariupol. About 30 people who left the factory decided to stay to try to find out if their loved ones were still alive. A total of 127 displaced people arrived in Zaporizhzhia.
Mariupol became the symbol of human misery inflicted by the war. A Russian siege trapped civilians with poor access to food, water and electricity, while Moscow forces hammered into the ruined city. The factory – where around 1,000 civilians and around 2,000 fighters who refused to surrender sought refuge – particularly fascinated the outside world.
After failing to take Kiev in the first weeks of the war, Russia withdrew some of its forces and then warned it would focus on Ukraine’s industrial heart, the Donbass. Mariupol is in the region and its capture would deprive Ukraine of a viable port, allow Russia to establish a land corridor to the Crimean peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014, and free troops to fight elsewhere in Donbass.
But so far it appears that Russian troops and their allied separatist forces have made only small gains in the region, taking several small towns as they attempt to advance in relatively small groups against fierce Ukrainian resistance.
Ukraine’s resistance was greatly strengthened by Western weapons. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced £ 300 million (CA $ 481,038,000) in new military aid, including radar, drones and armored vehicles.
In a speech delivered by videoconference to the Ukrainian parliament, he echoed the words of Winston Churchill during World War II.
“Your children and grandchildren will say that Ukrainians have taught the world that the brute strength of an aggressor counts for nothing against the moral strength of a people determined to be free,” Johnson said.
Elsewhere in front
In other developments in the past few hours, Russian troops bombed a chemical plant in the eastern city of Avdiivka, killing at least 10 people, according to Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.
“The Russians knew exactly where to strike. The workers had just finished their day and were waiting for their bus to return home. Another crime of Russia committed on our territory, “he wrote on Telegram.
Explosions were also heard in Lviv, western Ukraine, near the border with Poland. The strikes damaged two power plants, cutting off electricity in parts of the city. Lviv has been a gateway for NATO-supplied weapons and a refuge for those fleeing fighting in the east.