The Ukrainian army said Russian forces “are trying to destroy” the last defenders of the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, despite Russia announcing a ceasefire from Thursday morning.
“Russian occupiers are attacking and trying to destroy Ukrainian units in the territory of Azovstal,” the Ukrainian army said in a statement released this morning, adding that Moscow “has resumed the offensive, with the support of planes, to take control of the factory”.
The Ukrainian army’s denunciation came just hours after the Kremlin (Russian presidency) announced on Wednesday night that its forces would carry out a ceasefire for three consecutive days, starting at 05:00 GMT (06:00 in Lisbon) this Thursday, to allow the evacuation of the approximately 200 civilians still present in Azovstal, as stated by the mayor of Mariupol, Vadim Boitchenko.
The commander of the Azov regiment, Denys Prokopenko, who leads the defense of the site, indicated, in turn, in a video released on Wednesday night, that Russian forces managed to enter the steelworks and there fought “violent and bloody combats”.
“For two days the enemy has been inside the factory premises,” he admitted in the video posted on the Telegram message network.
“I am proud of my soldiers because they are making superhuman efforts to resist the enemy’s attack. I am grateful to the whole world for the colossal support given to the Mariupol garrison. Our soldiers deserve it,” he added.
The Azovstal factory, a huge steel complex crossed by underground networks, has been the last stronghold of resistance by Ukrainian fighters against the Russian army in Mariupol, a city where a strategic port is located.
The surrender or capture of these soldiers would be an important victory for Moscow.
Mayor Vadim Boitchenko also called this Thursday for the continuation of the evacuation of civilians from the city, carried out with the help of the United Nations and the International Red Cross.
“We are fighting together to save each person, each resident of Mariupol”, he assured.
Fighting remains fierce in other parts of the country, especially in eastern Ukraine, where, according to the governor of the Donetsk region, there was an attack on a residential area of Kramatorsk during the night that left 25 civilians injured.
The Russian army said the attack targeted a Ukrainian command post and two military warehouses located at the city’s airfield.
Russia launched a military offensive in Ukraine on February 24 that has killed more than 3,000 civilians, according to the UN, which warns that the real number is likely to be much higher.
The military offensive caused the flight of more than 13 million people, of which more than 5.5 million left the country, according to the latest UN data.
The Russian invasion was condemned by the international community in general, which responded by sending weapons to Ukraine and reinforcing economic and political sanctions on Moscow.
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