The Ukrainians plead for the rescue of Mariupol; Russian Advanced Tracking

KHARKIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian forces fought town by town Saturday to contain a Russian advance through the country’s east as the United Nations worked to negotiate a civilian evacuation of the last defensive bastion in the bombed-out ruins of the port city. . from Mariupol.

An estimated 100,000 civilians remain in the city, with as many as 1,000 living under a sprawling steel plant from the soviet era, according to Ukrainian officials. Ukraine has not said how many fighters are also at the plant, the only part of Mariupol not occupied by Russian forces, but Russia put the number at around 2,000.

Russian state media reported on Saturday that 25 civilians had been evacuated from the Azovstal steelworks, although there was no UN confirmation. The Russian news agency RIA Novosti said 19 adults and six children had been taken out, but gave no further details.

A senior official from the Azov Regiment, the Ukrainian unit defending the plant, said 20 civilians were evacuated during a ceasefire, although it was not clear if he was referring to the same group as Russian news reports.

“They are women and children,” Sviatoslav Palamar 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 are not taken away and their evacuation to the territory controlled by Ukraine is not discussed.”

Video and images from inside the plant, shared with The Associated Press by two Ukrainian women who said their husbands are among the fighters refusing to surrender there, he showed unidentified men in stained bandages; others had open wounds or amputated limbs.

A skeleton medical staff was treating at least 600 injured people, said the women, who identified their husbands as members of the Azov Regiment of Ukraine’s National Guard. Some of the wounds were rotting with gangrene, they said.

In the video, the men said they eat just once a day and share as little as 1.5 liters (50 ounces) of water a day between four people, and that supplies inside the besieged facility are depleted.

A shirtless man appeared to be in pain as he described his injuries: two broken ribs, a punctured lung and a dislocated arm that was “hanging from the flesh.”

“I want to say to everyone who sees this: If you don’t stop this here in Ukraine, it will go further, to Europe,” he said.

The AP was unable to independently verify the date and location of the video, which the women say was taken last week in the maze of corridors and bunkers below the plant.

The women urged that Ukrainian fighters also be evacuated along with civilians, warning that they could be tortured and executed if captured. “Soldiers’ lives also matter,” Yuliia Fedusiuk told the AP in Rome.

In other developments:

— Ukraine’s Deputy Agriculture Minister Taras Vysotsky said in televised remarks that Russian forces have seized hundreds of thousands of tons of grain in territory under their control. Ukraine is a major grain producer, and the invasion has pushed up world prices and raised concerns about shortages.

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

— Queues formed at gas stations in kyiv, Dnipro and other cities as Ukraine faced fuel shortages as Russia destroyed its fuel infrastructure and blocked ports, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his speech on Friday. He said there were “no immediate solutions” to the shortage, but he hoped the situation would improve in the next week or two.

— The bodies of three men were found buried in a forest near the kyiv suburb of Bucha, the head of the kyiv regional police said. The men, whose bodies were found on Friday, had been tortured before they were shot in the head, Andriy Nebytov wrote on Facebook. Ukrainian officials have alleged that retreating Russian troops carried out mass killings of civilians in Bucha.

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

— Two buses sent to evacuate residents of the eastern city of Popasna were shot at and contact with the organizers was lost, Mayor Nikolai Khanatov said: “We know that (the buses) arrived in the city and then were attacked by a enemy sabotage. and reconnaissance group.

Getting a full picture of the unfolding battle in eastern Ukraine has been difficult because airstrikes and artillery shelling have made it extremely dangerous for reporters to move. In addition, both the Ukrainian and Moscow-backed rebels have introduced strict restrictions on reporting from the combat zone.

But Western military analysts suggested the offensive in the Donbas region, which includes Mariupol, was going much slower than planned. So far, Russian troops and separatists appear to have made only minor gains in the month since Moscow said it would concentrate its military force in the east.

Numerically, Russia’s military manpower vastly outnumbers Ukraine’s. In the days before the war began, Western intelligence estimated that Russia had stationed as many as 190,000 troops near the border; Ukraine’s standing army numbers about 200,000, spread throughout the country.

However, in part because of the tenacity of the Ukrainian resistance, the US believes the Russians are “at least several days behind where they wanted to be” as they try to encircle Ukrainian troops in the east, a senior official said. US defense official who spoke. on condition of anonymity to discuss the US military’s assessment.

With plenty of firepower still in reserve, Russia’s offensive could still escalate and overwhelm the Ukrainians. Overall, the Russian military has an estimated 900,000 active duty personnel. Russia also has a much larger air force and navy.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid have poured into Ukraine since the war began, but Russia’s vast arsenals mean Ukraine’s needs are nearly inexhaustible.

Mariupol officials have described severe shortages of food, water and medicine. UN humanitarian spokesman Saviano Abreu said the world organization was negotiating with authorities in Moscow and kyiv but could not provide details about the ongoing evacuation effort “due to the complexity and fluidity of the operation.”

“Right now, there are ongoing high-level engagements with all governments, Russia and Ukraine, to make sure they can save civilians and support the evacuation of civilians from the plant,” Abreu told AP. He did not confirm the video posted on social media allegedly showing UN-branded vehicles in Mariupol.

Ukraine has blamed the failure of numerous previous evacuation attempts on continued Russian bombardment.


Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell and Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstyslav Chernov in Kharkiv, Yesica Fisch in Sloviansk, Lolita C. Baldor in Washington, Trisha Thompson in Rome, and AP staff around the world contributed to this report.


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