Ukraine war: Russia tries to storm Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol

Vladimir Putin has already declared ‘victory’ over the city despite this last stronghold (Photo: Reuters)

Russian forces resumed their attack on the last remaining stronghold of Mariupol days after Moscow declared victory over the city.

Vladimir Putin had ordered his troops to simply block the Azovstal steelworks so that ‘not even a fly comes through’.

Such a siege would have left the 1,000 civilians and 2,000 soldiers trapped inside starving.

But today, a Ukrainian official said Russian forces hit the complex with airstrikes while trying to storm it.

Presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said: ‘The enemy is trying to stifle the final opposition from Mariupol’s defenders.’

Russia’s conquest of the city is seen as crucial in its attempt to connect the eastern Donbas region with Crimea – which Moscow annexed in 2014.

When Putin’s forces launched a new attack on the fortress, which was turned into a fortress, they also launched a missile attack on the southern port city of Odesa, killing at least six people, including a baby.

An armored convoy of pro-Russian troops moves along a road during the conflict between Ukraine and Russia in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 21, 2022. REUTERS / Chingis Kondarov

A convoy of Russian tank moves through the southern port city of Mariupol (Photo: Reuters)

Officials of pro-Russian troops, including fighters from the Chechen Special Forces, face the destroyed administration building of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works during the conflict between Ukraine and Russia in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 21, 2022. REUTERS / Chingis Kondarov

Pro-Russian troops, including fighters from the Chechen special forces unit, stand in front of the destroyed administration building at the Azovstal steelworks (Photo: Reuters)

A view shows damaged residential buildings and cars during the conflict between Ukraine and Russia in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 22, 2022. REUTERS / Alexander Ermochenko

Mariupol has been reduced to rubble after weeks and weeks of intense bombing (Image: Reuters)

“The only target of Russian missile attacks on Odesa is terrorism,” tweeted Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Russia has denied attacking civilians in its invasion – which it calls a ‘special military operation’ – launched on 24 February.

A Russian general, Rustam Minnekayev, said yesterday that Moscow wanted control of all of southern Ukraine, not just the Donbas.

Ukraine said the comments indicated that Russia had broader goals than its stated goal of demilitarizing and ‘de-Nazifying’ the country.

Russian forces have besieged and bombed Mariupol since the early days of the war, leaving a city usually home to more than 400,000 people in ruins.

An official of pro-Russian troops stands in front of the destroyed administration building of the Azovstal Iron and Steelworks during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 21, 2022. REUTERS / Chingis Kondarov

The southern port city is an important strategic location as it would allow Russia to connect the Donbas region with Crimea (Photo: Reuters)

A picture shows a construction of Azovstal iron and steel works during the conflict between Ukraine and Russia in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 22, 2022. REUTERS / Alexander Ermochenko

An estimated 1,000 civilians are believed to be sheltered in the besieged steelworks (Image: Reuters)

Smoke rises over Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, Ukraine, in this still image taken from a recent drone video posted on social media.  MARIUPOL CITY COUNCIL / via REUTERS THIS PICTURE IS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.  MANDATORY CREDIT.  NO RESALE.  NO ARCHIVE.

Forces from the far right Azov battalion are still trapped on the spot (Photo: Reuters)

A new attempt to evacuate civilians failed on Saturday, an aide to Mariupol’s mayor said.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said yesterday that the city’s last fighter jets had been ‘safely blocked’ at the steelworks.

On Thursday, President Vladimir Putin had declared the city ‘liberated’ and declared that troops would not storm Azovstal.

Arestovych, a political adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, said Ukrainian troops in the Azovstal complex still persisted “despite the very difficult situation” and attempted counterattacks.

The Azov Battalion, a right-wing extremist militia absorbed into the National Guard in 2014, released a video it said showed women and children housed in the complex.

An unnamed boy in the video said he was desperate to get out after being in the bunker for two months.

‘I want to see the sun, because here it’s dark, not like outside. Once our houses are rebuilt, we can live in peace. Let Ukraine win because Ukraine is our home country, “he said.

Ukraine estimates that tens of thousands of civilians have been killed in Mariupol and says 100,000 civilians are still there. The UN and the Red Cross say the civil toll is at least in the thousands.

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