Russian army storms Mariupol steel plant, Ukrainian forces say

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Ukrainian forces at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol said on Tuesday that the Russian army was now storming the complex.

The move comes nearly two weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his army not to storm the factory, but rather to block the last pocket of resistance in the besieged Ukrainian city.

Asked about reports in the Ukrainian media that the factory was being bombed, Sviatoslav Palamar, the deputy commander of the Azov regiment hiding there, said “it’s true”.

Smoke rises above the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works factory in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, Monday, May 2.
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Smoke rises above the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works factory in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, Monday, May 2.

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Vadim Astafyev, spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said on Tuesday that Ukrainian fighters entrenched at the factory “came out of the basements, took up firing positions on the territory and in the buildings of the factory. “. Astafyev said Russian forces as well as Donetsk rebel forces were using “artillery and aircraft…to destroy these firing positions.”

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko said earlier on Tuesday that more than 200 civilians remained at the Azovstal plant following United Nations-assisted evacuation efforts in recent days, according to Reuters.

Mariupol Patrol Police Chief Mykhailo Vershinin was also quoted by Ukrainian TV on Tuesday as saying that the Russian army “started storming the factory in several places”.

Denys Shlega, commander of a Ukrainian National Guard brigade in Azovstal, said “the enemy is trying to storm the Azovstal factory with large forces using armored vehicles.”

In a statement on Tuesday, the UN said that “101 civilians were successfully evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol and other areas as part of a safe passage operation coordinated by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross”.

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“Thanks to the operation, 101 women, men, children and elderly people were finally able to leave the bunkers under the Azovstal steelworks and see the light of day after two months,” said Osnat Lubrani, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator United Nations for Ukraine. “Another 58 people joined us in Manhush, a town on the outskirts of Mariupol.

“Today we accompanied 127 people to Zaporizhzhia, about [143 miles] northwest of Mariupol, where they are receiving initial humanitarian assistance, including health and psychological care, from UN agencies, the ICRC and our humanitarian partners,” she added. “Some evacuees decided not to go to Zaporizhzhia with the convoy.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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