After a siege that lasted weeks, and while new evacuations were planned for today, the Russian army, in collaboration with separatists loyal to it, launched an attack on the Azovstal factory, the last enclave of the Ukrainian resistance in the southern city of Mariupol from which civilians have been evacuated in recent days thanks to an announced ceasefire in precedence from Moscow.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced: “Units of the Russian army and the Donetsk People’s Republic have begun to destroy the firing positions of Ukrainian fighters who have left the factory with artillery and airplanes.”
He also indicated the start of the operation to “eliminate the positions of the Azov Forces and the Ukrainian Armed Forces in Azovstal”, as reported by the “Novosti Agency”.
A spokesman for the press office of the Russian Defense Ministry, Vadim Astafeev, said on Tuesday that “Azov battalion militants and Ukrainian forces have taken advantage of the ceasefire regime in Azovstal to reach the fire stations, and now he’s started targeting them. “
In addition, he added: “They came out of the basements and took fire positions in thearea and in factory buildings. Now units of the Russian army and Donetsk forces have begun to use artillery and aircraft to destroy these firing positions. “
Ukraine reported that two civilians were killed in a missile attack on this vast steel mill.
More than 200 civilians evacuated
And Mariupol Mayor Vadim Boychenko confirmed today that more than 200 civilians are still holed up with fighters in the famous factory. He said about a hundred thousand civilians in total are still within the coastal city on the Sea of Azov, Reuters reported.
He also accused Russian forces of preventing the evacuation of civilians in the city of Zaporizhia.
Interestingly, the huge Azovstal factory was transformed into the last of the city’s “resistance” fortresses, where thousands of fighters and civilians were barricaded, Ukrainian authorities announced.
However, in recent days, the Russians have announced a ceasefire, with the aim of leaving civilians and fighters, on condition that they surrender.
However, the two sides returned and exchanged accusations of violating that truce and not allowing the evacuation of civilians, before UN and Red Cross efforts yesterday led to the evacuation of more civilians.
Since the launch of the Russian military operation on the lands of its western neighbor on February 24, Mariupol, overlooking the Sea of Azov, has been a strategic target for Moscow, as its control will open a land corridor for the movement of Russian forces between Eastern Ukraine and Crimea, which Moscow annexed to its territory in 2014.
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