Ukraine begins a new attempt to evacuate civilians from Mariupol under Russian bombardment

Service members of pro-Russian troops fire from a tank during fighting in the Ukraine-Russia conflict near the Azovstal steel plant in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 5, 2022.ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO/Reuters

Ukraine said a new attempt was underway on Friday to evacuate dozens of civilians trapped in a heavily bombed steel factory in the city of Mariupol, after bloody fighting with Russian forces thwarted efforts to get them to safety. the previous day.

Mariupol, a strategic southern port on the Sea of ​​Azov, has endured the most destructive siege of the 10-week war and the sprawling Soviet-era Azovstal steel plant is the last part of the city still in the hands of the Ukrainian fighters.

UN-brokered evacuations of some of the hundreds of civilians who had taken refuge in the plant’s network of tunnels and bunkers began over the weekend but were halted in recent days due to renewed fighting.

“The next stage of the rescue of our Azovstal people is underway right now. Information on the results will be provided later,” said Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian presidential cabinet. He did not elaborate.

Why is Russia invading Ukraine? What Putin’s troops have done, from the ‘Battle of Donbas’ to the siege of Mariupol

Russia has directed its greatest firepower against eastern and southern Ukraine, after failing to take the capital kyiv in the first weeks after its February 24 invasion. The new front is aimed at limiting Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea, vital for its grain and metal exports, and linking Russian-controlled territory in the east with the Crimean Peninsula, seized by Moscow in 2014.

Moscow calls its actions a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and rid it of anti-Russian nationalism fostered by the West. Ukraine and the West say that Russia has launched an unprovoked war of aggression. More than 5 million Ukrainians have fled abroad since the beginning of the invasion.

Ukrainian officials have warned that Russia could step up its offensive before May 9, when Moscow commemorates the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.



Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday that hundreds of hospitals and other medical institutions in the country had been devastated since the invasion, with many places in the south and east lacking even basic antibiotics.

“If you consider only the medical infrastructure, to this day Russian troops have destroyed or damaged almost 400 health care institutions: hospitals, maternity wards, outpatient clinics,” Zelensky said in a video addressed to a medical charity group. .

“This amounts to a complete lack of medicines for cancer patients. It means extreme difficulties or a complete lack of insulin for diabetes. Surgery is impossible. It even simply means a lack of antibiotics.”

The Kremlin says it targets only military or strategic sites and not civilians. Ukraine reports daily on civilian casualties from Russian bombing and fighting, and accuses Russia of war crimes. Russia denies the accusations.

In Mariupol, some 200 civilians were trapped underground at the Azovstal plant with little food or water.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia was prepared to provide safe passage for civilians, but reiterated calls for Ukrainian forces inside to disarm.

Putin declared victory at Mariupol on April 21, ordering his forces to shut down the plant but not to venture into its network of tunnels.

The Kremlin denies Ukraine’s accusations that Russian troops stormed the plant in recent days and said there were humanitarian corridors. Russia’s military has promised to pause its activity for the next two days to allow civilians to leave.

Aerial images of the plant, released Thursday by Ukraine’s Azov Regiment, showed three explosions in different parts of the vast complex, which was shrouded in thick, dark smoke. Reuters verified the location of the footage by comparing buildings to satellite images, but was unable to determine when the video was shot.


Ukraine’s stubborn defense of Azovstal has underscored Russia’s failure to take major cities in a war that has united Western powers to arm kyiv and punish Moscow with the harshest sanctions ever imposed on a great power.

Economic measures by Washington and European allies have crippled Russia’s $1.8 trillion economy, while billions of dollars in military aid have helped Ukraine thwart the invasion.

However, in an apparent rift in Western unity, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday his country could not support the European Union’s proposed new sanctions package, which includes an oil embargo, in its current form. .

Orban said the European Commission’s current proposal would amount to an “atomic bomb” being dropped on the Hungarian economy, adding that Hungary was ready to negotiate.

Orban also said Hungary would not support the blacklisting of the head of the Kremlin-allied Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, as it was a “religious freedom issue.”

The Kremlin has said Russia is weighing responses to the EU plan.

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The European Union’s chief executive on Wednesday proposed a gradual oil embargo on Russia over its war in Ukraine, as well as sanctioning Russia’s top bank and banning Russian broadcasters from European airwaves, in a bid to deepen Russia’s isolation. Moscow. Reports Francis Maguire.


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