Ukrainians plead for rescue of Mariupol; Russian advance crawls – Boston News, Weather, Sports

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KHARKIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian forces fought village by village Saturday to halt a Russian advance in the east of the country, as the United Nations worked to broker a civilian evacuation from Ukraine’s last stronghold in the bombed-out ruins of the port city of Mariupol.

According to Ukrainian officials, around 100,000 civilians still live in the city and up to 1,000 live under a sprawling Soviet-era steelworks. Ukraine has not said how many fighters are also at the factory, the only part of Mariupol not occupied by Russian forces, but the Russians put the number at around 2,000.

Russian media reported on Saturday that 25 civilians had been evacuated from the Azovstal steelworks, although there was no confirmation from the UN or Ukrainian officials. Russian news agency RIA Novosti said 19 adults and six children were taken out of the factory, but did not give further details.

Video and footage from inside the plant, shared with The Associated Press by two Ukrainian women who said their husbands were among the fighters refusing to go there, showed unidentified wounded men with stained bandages to change; others had open wounds or amputated limbs.

Skeletal medical personnel were treating at least 600 wounded, said the women, who identified their husbands as members of the Ukrainian National Guard’s Azov regiment. Some of the wounds were rotting with gangrene, they said.

In the video the women shared, the injured men tell the camera they eat once a day and share as little as 1.5 liters (50 ounces) of water a day between four. Supplies inside the surrounded facility have run out, they said.

The AP could not independently verify the date and location of the footage, which the women say was taken last week in the maze of passageways beneath the steel mill.

A shirtless man spoke with obvious pain as he described his injuries: two broken ribs, a punctured lung and a dislocated arm that “hung from the flesh”.

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

In other developments:

— The bodies of three men were found buried in a forest not far from the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, the Kyiv regional police chief said. The men, whose bodies were found on Friday, had been tortured before being shot in the head, Andriy Nebytov wrote on Facebook. Ukrainian officials alleged that retreating Russian troops had committed massacres of civilians in Bucha.

– Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview that Russian and Ukrainian negotiators talk to each other “almost every day”. However, he told China’s state news agency Xinhua that “progress has not been easy”.

— Two buses that went to evacuate residents of the eastern Ukrainian town of Popasna were fired upon and contact with the organizers was lost, Mayor Nikolai Khanatov said. “We know that (the buses) reached the city and then came under fire from an enemy sabotage and reconnaissance group,” Khanatov said.

– A Russian rocket attack destroyed the runway at the airport in Odessa, Ukraine’s third-most populous city and a key Black Sea port, the Ukrainian military said. Ukraine’s UNIAN news agency reported that “several” explosions were heard in Odessa on Saturday, prompting local authorities to advise residents to shelter in place.

Getting a full picture of the battle unfolding in the east has been difficult as airstrikes and artillery barrages have made it extremely dangerous for journalists to travel. Ukraine and Moscow-backed rebels fighting in the east have also introduced strict restrictions on reporting from the combat zone.

But Western military analysts have suggested that Moscow’s offensive in the eastern Donbass region, which includes Mariupol, is proceeding much more slowly than expected. So far, Russian troops and Moscow-backed separatist forces appeared to have made only minor gains in the month since Moscow said it would concentrate its military force in eastern Ukraine.

Numerically, Russia’s military strength greatly exceeds that of Ukraine. In the days before the war began, Western intelligence estimated that Russia had positioned up to 190,000 troops near the border; The standing army of Ukraine numbers about 200,000 men, spread across the country.

Partly because of the tenacity of the Ukrainian resistance, the United States believes that the Russians are “at least several days behind what they wanted to be” as they attempt to surround Ukrainian troops in the is, said a senior US defense official who spoke conditionally. from anonymity to discuss the U.S. military’s assessment.

With plenty of firepower still in reserve, Russia’s promised offensive could intensify further and overtake the Ukrainians. Overall, the Russian army has about 900,000 men in active service. Russia also has a much larger air force and navy than Ukraine.

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

“We need an unlimited number of weapons,” Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said.

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

“There are, right now, high-level engagements going on with all governments, Russia and Ukraine, to make sure you can save civilians and support the evacuation of civilians from the plant.” , Abreu told the AP. He did not confirm the video posted on social media that claimed to show UN-marked vehicles in Mariupol.

Ukraine has blamed the failure of many previous evacuation attempts on continued Russian shelling.

The ferocity of the fighting stunned the world. In the United States, the Pentagon’s press secretary, John Kirby, was moved on Friday by evoking the “brutality” and “depravity” of the invasion ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“It’s hard to look at what he’s doing in Ukraine, what his forces are doing in Ukraine, and to think that any ethical, moral individual could justify that,” said Kirby, a retired rear admiral. , to journalists. “It’s hard to look at some of the footage and imagine any thoughtful, serious, mature leader would do that. So I can’t talk about his psychology. But I think we can all talk about his depravity.

For those at the Mariupol Steelworks, an extensive underground network of tunnels and bunkers provided security against airstrikes. But the situation worsened after the Russians dropped “bunker breakers” and other bombs on the factory, the mayor said on Friday.

Women who said their husbands were at the factory as part of the Azov regiment said they feared the soldiers would be tortured and killed if left behind and captured by the Russians. They called for a Dunkirk-style mission to evacuate fighters, a reference to the World War II operation launched to rescue Allied troops surrounded in northern France.

“We have to do it now,” Kateryna Prokopenko, 27, told the AP in Rome.

The Azov regiment that helps defend the steelworks has its roots in the Azov Battalion, formed in 2014 by far-right activists at the start of the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine. Russia referenced the regiment’s past while attempting to justify the invasion.

(Copyright (c) 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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