Some Ukrainians extracted from the ruins of the Mariupol Steel Plant

Some Ukrainians extracted from the ruins of the Mariupol Steel Plant

KHARKIV, Ukraine ( Associated Press) — Some women and children were evacuated from a steel plant, the last defensive stronghold in the bombed ruins of the port city of Mariupol, but hundreds are believed to be, a Ukrainian official and Russian state news organizations said. To get caught in the trap of little food, water or medicine.

After several previous attempts failed, the United Nations was working to broker the evacuation of 1,000 civilians living beneath the giant Soviet-era Azovstal plant. Ukraine did not say how many fighters were at the plant, the only part of Mariupol not being occupied by Russian forces, but Russia has put the number at around 2,000. An estimated 100,000 citizens live in the city.

UN humanitarian spokesman Saviano Abreu said the world organization was in talks with officials in Moscow and Kyiv, but could not give details of the ongoing evacuation efforts “due to the complexity and fluidity of the operation”.

“Right now, there’s a high-level engagement going on with all the governments, Russia and Ukraine, to make sure you can rescue civilians and assist civilians to be evacuated from the plant,” Abru told the Associated Press. He would not confirm a video posted on social media purportedly showed UN-marked vehicles in Mariupol.

Ukraine has attributed the failure of several previous evacuation efforts to continued Russian shelling.

The Russian military has launched a major military operation to seize important parts of southern and eastern Ukraine, the country’s industrial region. To stop the Russian army, the Ukrainian army fought from village to village on Saturday.

Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency said on Saturday that 19 adults and six children had been brought out of the steelworks, but gave no further details.

A top official of the Azov Regiment, the Ukrainian unit guarding the plant, said 20 civilians had been evacuated during the ceasefire, though it was not clear whether he was referring to the same group. There was no confirmation from the United Nations

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“These are women and children,” Svyatoslav Palmar said in a video posted on the regiment’s Telegram channel. He also called for the evacuation of the wounded: “We do not know why they were not taken and their evacuation in the territory controlled by Ukraine is not being discussed.”

Video and images from inside the plant shared with The Associated Press by two Ukrainian women who said their husbands were among fighters refusing to surrender there showed unidentified men with tainted bandages; Others had open wounds or amputations.

A skeletal medical worker was treating at least 600 wounded, said the women, who identified their husbands as members of the Azov regiment of Ukraine’s National Guard. He said some of the wounds were rotting from gangrene.

The men in the video said they ate just once a day and shared at least 1.5 liters (50 ounces) of water a day among four people, and that the supplies inside the besieged facility ran out.

A shirtless man was in pain, describing his wounds: two broken ribs, a punctured lung and a dislocated hand that “hanged on the flesh.”

“I want to tell everyone who sees it: if you don’t stop it here, in Ukraine, it will move further to Europe,” he said.

Andhra Pradesh could not independently confirm the date and location of the video, which the women said was taken last week in a maze of corridors and bunkers under the plant.

The women urged that Ukrainian fighters be evacuated along with civilians, warning they could be tortured and killed if caught. “The lives of soldiers also matter,” Yulia Fedusiuk told the Associated Press in Rome.

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In his video address late Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Russian troops not to fight in Ukraine, saying his generals also expected thousands more of them to die.

The president accused Moscow of recruiting new troops “with little motivation and little combat experience” so that units destroyed early in the war could be thrown back into battle.

“Every Russian soldier can still save his life,” Zelensky said. “It is better for you to survive in Russia than to perish on our land.”

In other developments:

Ukraine’s Deputy Agriculture Minister Taras Vysotsky said on television that the Russian military had confiscated hundreds of thousands of tons of grain in areas under its control. Ukraine is a major grain producer, and the invasion has raised world prices and raised concerns about shortages.

– A Russian rocket attack destroyed an airport runway in Ukraine’s third-most populous city of Odessa and a major Black Sea port, the Ukrainian military said.

The bodies of three people were found buried in a forest near the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, said the chief of the police force of the Kyiv region. Andrey Nebitov wrote on Facebook, the people whose bodies were found on Friday were tortured before being shot in the head. Ukrainian authorities have alleged that retreating Russian troops carried out mass killings of civilians in Buka.

– Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview that Russian and Ukrainian interlocutors talk “almost every day”. However, he told the Chinese state news agency Xinhua, “Progress has not been easy.”

Two buses sent to evacuate residents from the eastern city of Popasna were fired upon and contact with the organisers was lost. Mayor Nikolai Khanatov said: “We know that (buses) arrived in the city and then came under fire from enemy sabotage and reconnaissance groups.”

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It has been difficult to get a full picture of the fighting in eastern Ukraine as the barrage of airstrikes and artillery made it extremely dangerous for journalists to move. At the same time, both Ukraine and Moscow-backed rebels have imposed strict restrictions on reporting from the war zone.

But Western military analysts suggested that the offensive in the Donbass region, which includes Mariupol, was proceeding much slower than planned. So far, Russian troops and separatists have made only modest gains in the month as Moscow said it would focus its military might in the east.

Numerically, the military manpower of Russia is much higher than that of Ukraine. In the days before the war broke out, Western intelligence estimated that Russia stationed 190,000 troops near the border; Ukraine’s permanent military totals about 200,000, spread across the country.

With still plenty of firepower, the Russian offensive could still accelerate and overtake the Ukrainians. Altogether there are an estimated 900,000 active-duty personnel in the Russian military. Russia also has a very large air force and navy.

Hundreds of millions of dollars of military aid have flown into Ukraine since the start of the war, but Russia’s vast arsenal means Ukraine will need massive amounts of support.

Associated Press journalists John Gambrel and Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstislav Chernov in Kharkiv, Yesika Fisch in Slovakia, Kara Anna in Zaporizhzhya, Lolita C. Trisha Thompson in Baldor, Rome, and Associated Press employees around the world contributed to this report.

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