Saturday, December 03, 2022

Citizens rescued from Mariupol steel plant head to safety

ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine ( Associated Press) — Russia has restarted the Mariupol steel mill, which has become the last bastion of resistance in the bombed city, Ukrainian fighters said on Monday, after a brief ceasefire over the weekend. First withdrawal allowed. plant.

Meanwhile, a senior US official warned that Russia was planning to capture large parts of eastern Ukraine this month and recognize the southern city of Kherson as an independent republic.

Michael Carpenter, the US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said those suspicious acts were “straight out of the Kremlin’s playbook” and would not be recognized by the United States or its allies.

In Mariupol, more than 100 people, including elderly women and mothers with young children, left the Azovstal steelworks buried in the rubble on Sunday and traveled some 140 miles (230 kilometers) in buses and ambulances to the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhya . North West, according to officials and videos released by both sides.

Mariupol deputy mayor Sergei Orlov told the BBC the evacuees were making slow progress and would likely not reach Zaporizhia as expected on Monday. Officials did not provide any explanation for the delay.

At least some civilians were taken to a village apparently controlled by Russia-backed separatists. The Russian military said some preferred to stay in separatist areas, while dozens left for Ukrainian-occupied territory.

In the past, Ukraine has accused Moscow troops of moving civilians into Russia or Russian-controlled areas against their will. The Kremlin has denied this.

Russia’s bombardment of the giant plant by air, tank and ship resumed after a partial evacuation, the Azov battalion of Ukraine, which is helping defend the mill, said on the Telegram messaging app.

Orlov said high-level talks were underway between Ukraine, Russia and international organizations to evacuate more people.

The steel-plant evacuation, if successful, would represent a rare advance in reducing the humanitarian cost of the nearly 10-week war, which has particularly plagued Mariupol., Previous attempts to open safe corridors from the southern port city and elsewhere have fallen through, with Ukrainian officials accusing Russian forces of firing and shelling on agreed evacuation routes.

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Before the weekend evacuation, around 1,000 civilians were at the plant along with an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian defenders, under the supervision of the United Nations and the Red Cross. Russia has demanded that the fighters surrender; He has refused.

Altogether 100,000 people may still be in Mariupol, which had a pre-war population of over 400,000. The Russian military has reduced much of the city to rubble, trapping civilians with little food, water, heat or medicine.

Some Mariupol residents left the city on their own, often in damaged private cars.

As sunset approached, Mariupol resident Yaroslav Dmitryshin rushed to a reception center in Zaporizhzhya, in which the rear seat was filled with youth and two signs were taped to the rear window: “children” and “little ones.”

“I can’t believe we survived,” he said, looking weary but in good spirits after two days on the road.

“Nobody is Mariupol,” he said. “Someone needs to rebuild it, and it will take millions of tons of gold.” He said they lived across the railroad tracks from the steel plant. “Wasted,” he said. “The factory is completely gone.”

Anastasia Dembitska, who took advantage of the truce to accompany her daughter, nephew and dog, said she could see the steelworks from her window when she dared to look outside.

“We can see rockets flying” and clouds of smoke over the plant, she said.

A senior US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, asked to describe the Pentagon’s assessment that while most of Mariupol was in ruins, most of the dozens of Russian battalion tactical groups living around the city moved to other battlefields in northeastern Ukraine. Huh. ,

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said he hoped more people would be able to leave Mariupol in an organized evacuation on Monday. The city council told residents they wanted to gather in a shopping mall to wait for buses.

Zelensky told Greek state television that the remaining civilians at the steel plant were afraid to board the buses because they feared they would be taken to Russia. He said he had been assured by the United Nations that he would be allowed to visit areas under his government’s control.

Also on Monday, Zelensky said that at least 220 Ukrainian children have been killed by the Russian military since the start of the war, and 1,570 educational institutions have been destroyed or damaged.

In other developments, EU energy ministers met on Monday to discuss new sanctions against the Kremlin, which could include sanctions on Russian oil. Some members of the 27-nation bloc that rely on Russia, including Hungary and Slovakia, are wary of strict action.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has turned his attention to Ukraine’s eastern industrial region of Donbass, where Moscow-backed separatists have been battling Ukrainian forces since 2014 in a failed attempt to capture the capital Kyiv.

Carpenter, the US ambassador to the OSCE, cited information that Russia is planning a “sham referendum” in the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk “People’s Republics” that would add entities to Russia. He also said that there are signs that Russia will vote for independence in Kherson.

He said local mayors and legislators had been kidnapped, that internet and cellphone service had been shut down and that a Russian school curriculum would soon be implemented. The government of Ukraine has said that Russia has also introduced the ruble as currency there.

Russia said on Monday that it had targeted dozens of military bases in the region in the past day. It said it targeted a concentration of troops and weapons and an ammunition depot near Chervon in the Zaporizhzhya region, west of the Donbass.

Ukrainian and Western officials say Moscow’s military is firing indiscriminately, severely impacting civilians while making slow progress.

Maxim Marchenko, the governor of the Odessa region along the Black Sea coast, said on Telegram that a Russian missile attack on an Odessa infrastructure target on Monday resulted in deaths and injuries. He did not give any details. Zelensky said the attack destroyed a hostel and killed a 14-year-old boy.

Ukraine said Russia also attacked a strategic road and rail bridge west of Odessa. The bridge was heavily damaged in previous Russian attacks, and its destruction would cut supply routes for weapons and other cargo from neighboring Romania.

The attack on Odessa comes eight years after a deadly clash between supporters of the Ukrainian government and protesters demanding autonomy in the country’s east. In 2014, supporters of the government set fire to a trade union building housed by pro-autonomy protesters, killing more than 40 people.

Also on Monday, Ukraine claimed to have destroyed two small Russian patrol boats in the Black Sea.

Mariupol, which is located in the Donbass, is the key to Russia’s campaign in the east. Its capture would deprive Ukraine of a vital port, allow Russia to establish a land corridor to the Crimean peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014, and free up troops to fight elsewhere.

Britain’s defense ministry said it believes more than a quarter of all combat units deployed by Russia in Ukraine are now “battle ineffective” – ​​unable to fight due to loss of troops or equipment.


Reported from Varenytsia Kyiv, Ukraine. Associated Press journalists Yesika Fisch in Sloviansk, Jon Gambrel and Urus Karmanau in Lviv, Mstislav Chernov in Kharkiv, Lolita Baldor in Washington and Associated Press employees from around the world contributed to this report.


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