KHARKIV, Ukraine (AFP) – On Saturday, Ukrainian forces fought to repel any Russian advance It aims to capture an eastern industrial zone along with Ukraine’s last stronghold in the southern city of Mariupol, where fighters and civilians hiding under a badly damaged steel mill are suffering from dire conditions.
The United Nations continued to try to broker the evacuation of civilians from the sprawling Soviet-era factory and other bombed-out ruins of Mariupol, a port city that Russia has sought to capture and has been heavily bombed since it invaded Ukraine more than nine weeks ago. .
There are up to 1,000 civilians in Azovstal’s steel plants, according to Ukrainian officials, who did not say how many fighters remained in the only unoccupied part of Mariupol. by Russian forces. The Russians estimated the number of Ukrainian soldiers at the plant at about 2,000.
Two Ukrainian women shared the videos and photos with the Associated Press who said their husbands were among the fighters There appeared unidentified men with stained bandages in need of changing; Others had open wounds or had limbs amputated.
The women, who identified their husbands as members of the Azov Regiment of the Ukrainian National Guard, said a large medical staff was treating at least 600 wounded. They said some wounds were rotting from gangrene.
In the video shared by the women, the injured men told the camera that they eat once a day and share at least 1.5 liters (50 ounces) of water per day between four people. They said supplies inside the besieged facility ran out.
The AP was unable to independently verify the date and location of the footage, which the women said was taken last week in driveways under the steel mill.
A shirtless man spoke in palpable pain as he described his wounds: two broken ribs, a punctured lung and a dislocated arm that “was hanging over the body.”
“I want to tell everyone who sees this. If you do not stop this here, in Ukraine, it will go further, to Europe.
In other developments:
– Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview that Russian and Ukrainian negotiators talk “almost every day.” But he told Xinhua that “the progress has not been easy.”
– His family said a former US Marine was killed while fighting alongside Ukrainian forces, in what would be the first known killing of an American in the war. The United States did not confirm the news.
– Mayor Nikolai Khanatov said that two buses heading to the eastern Ukrainian town of Popasna to evacuate residents came under fire and contact with the drivers was lost.
The Russian Air Defense Forces spotted a Ukrainian military plane over the Russian Bryansk region and tried to repel the planes. District Governor Alexandre Bogomaz said two shells hit a village. No one was hurt, Bogomaz said, but some damage to an oil port.
Getting a full picture of the battle going on in the east was difficult because the air strikes and artillery shelling made the movement of journalists too dangerous. Both Ukraine and Moscow-backed rebels fighting in the east have also tightly restricted reporting from the combat zone.
But Western military analysts noted that Moscow’s offensive in the eastern Donbass region, which includes Mariupol, was proceeding much slower than planned. So far, Russian and Moscow-backed separatist forces in the region appear to have made only small gains in the month since Moscow said it would concentrate its military power in eastern Ukraine.
Numerically, the Russian military manpower greatly exceeds the workforce in Ukraine. In the days before the start of the war, Western intelligence estimated that Russia was stationed near the border with as many as 190,000 soldiers. The number of the permanent Ukrainian army is about 200,000 spread throughout the country.
A senior US defense official who spoke on the condition said the US believed the Russians were “at least several days behind where they want to be,” in part because of the insistence of the Ukrainian resistance, as they try to encircle Ukrainian forces in the east. Anonymity to discuss the US military’s assessment.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense provided a similar finding in its daily assessment of the war, saying it believed Russian forces in Ukraine likely suffered from “low morale”, coupled with a lack of unit-level skills and “inconsistent air support”. It did not state on what basis the evaluation was conducted.
With plenty of firepower in reserve, the promised Russian offensive could still intensify and bypass the Ukrainians. Overall, the Russian Army has an estimated 900,000 personnel on active duty. Russia also has a much larger air and naval power than Ukraine and possesses tactical nuclear weapons.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky admitted this in his nightly speech.
If the Russian invaders succeed in realizing their plans, at least in part, they will still have enough artillery and aircraft to destroy the whole of Donbass. Just as they destroyed Mariupol.
“The city, which was one of the most developed in the region, is simply a Russian concentration camp amid the ruins,” Zelensky said.
In Mariupol, it is believed that about 100,000 people remain in the city with little food, water and medicine. UN spokesman Farhan Haq said the organization was negotiating with authorities in Moscow and Kiev to create conditions for safe passage.
Ukraine has blamed the failure of several previous evacuation attempts on continued Russian bombing.
For those who work in the steel mill, an extensive network of tunnels and underground bunkers provide safety from air strikes. But the situation has become more dangerous After the Russians threw “bunker-busting missiles” and other bombs at the factory, the mayor said Friday.
The women who said their husbands are at the steel plant as part of the Azov regiment said they feared the soldiers would be tortured and killed if the Russians and their families left them. They requested a Dunkirk-style mission to evacuate fighters, in reference to the World War II operation launched to rescue besieged Allied forces in northern France.
“We can do this extraction … which will save our soldiers, civilians and our children,” Katerina Prokopenko, 27, told the Associated Press in Rome. “We need to do this now, because people – every hour, every second – are dying.”
The Azov Battalion that helps defend the steel plant has its roots in the Azov Battalion, formed in 2014 by far-right activists at the start of the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine. Russian officials pointed to the regiment’s past as they tried to justify its activities in eastern Ukraine.
Despite the intensity of the fighting in the east, some Ukrainians tried to return to the besieged area, contrary to the influx of nearly 5.5 million people who have fled the country since the Russian invasion.
“Everything is there. Our roots are there,” a 75-year-old man intends to cross the front line from Zaporizhia with his wife to get to his home in Donetsk. “Even people from Mariupol want to come back.”
Journalists John Gambrel and Juras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstislav Chernov in Kharkiv, Jesica Fisch in Sloviansk, Lolita C. Baldur in Washington, Trisha Thompson in Rome, and AP staff around the world contributed to this report.
Follow the Associated Press’ coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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