Ukraine war: Russians ‘storm’ Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol as civilians remain trapped

·3-min read
Ukrainian officials claimed shelling resumed soon after the evacuation  (REUTERS)
Ukrainian officials claimed shelling resumed soon after the evacuation (REUTERS)

Ukrainian defenders of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol claim that Russian forces have started to storm the last pocket of resistance.

Sviatoslav Palamar, the deputy commander of the Azov regiment that is holed up in the steelworks, confirmed that Vladimir Putin’s forces had attempted to break into the facility and overwhelm Ukrainian forces on Tuesday.

Denys Shlega, a commander of a brigade of Ukraine's National Guard also at Azovstal, also said “the enemy is trying to storm the Azovstal plant with significant forces using armored vehicles”. The Standard could not independently verify the claim.

Deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk told reporters earlier on Tuesday that a few hundred civilians remained at the plant despite extensive evacuation efforts. Over 100 civilians managed to flee the besieged city on Sunday after weeks of brutal shelling by Russian forces.

Despite the partial evacuation, officials from the Azov Battalion claimed the bombardment of the Azovstal steelworks resumed shortly after some managed to escape.

Their claim appeared to be backed up by pictures showing huge plumes of black smoke rising from the plant on Monday.

The evacuation was overseen by the United Nations and the Red Cross but it is thought as many as 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers and 1,000 civilians had been taking shelter at the plant.

However, it is thought 100,000 people remain in the wider city which has seen some of the most intense fighting since the 10-week war began.

People disembark a van to be registered by police after arriving at an evacuation point in Zaporizhzhia for people fleeing Mariupol (Getty Images)
People disembark a van to be registered by police after arriving at an evacuation point in Zaporizhzhia for people fleeing Mariupol (Getty Images)

The first batch of civilians rescued from Mariupol headed to the city of Zaporizhzhia but have been hit by delays due to poor road conditions and Russian checkpoints in the region.

Food, water and medicine supplies are running low in Mariupol due to the Russian invasion with Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk adding: “The situation has become a sign of a real humanitarian catastrophe.”

Ukrainian officials have also claimed enemy troops have taken fleeing civilians to Russian held towns, although the Kremlin has denied the claim.

Natalya Tsyntomirska, who managed to escape the city, said: “The whole time, we were shelled with mines, and then air strikes started. Our house is completely destroyed."

The Azovstal plant is surrounded by water on three sides and has an extensive underground network of tunnels, which has prevented Russian troops from completing their capture of the important southern Ukrainian city.

As of May 2, the UN claims 3,153 civilians have been killed since the war began, including 72 children.

Ahead of Boris Johnson’s speech to the Ukrainian parliament, the UK Government has donated £300million in additional military aid.

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