Russian forces entered the Azovstal steel plant on Wednesday with intense battles ongoing on Thursday, Ukrainian officials report. Despite evacuations this week, many civilians remain trapped inside the plant.
After a series of successful and failed attempts to evacuate stranded civilians inside the plant this week, Russian troops entered on Wednesday. A large battle with Ukrainian forces ensued, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed again to the UN to help evacuate those still trapped inside.
“There are still civilians: women, children. The lives of the people who remain there are in danger. Everyone is important to us. We ask for your help in saving them.”
Reports from Ukrainian military intelligence suggest Russia is aiming to take out the remaining Ukrainian forces in Mariupol and capture what is left of the city.
433 civilians evacuated
On Thursday, it was reported that 433 civilians had been evacuated from Mariupol after Russia agreed to allow a humanitarian corridor.
“The Russian armed forces will open a humanitarian corridor from 8am to 6pm (Moscow time) on May 5, 6 and 7 from the territory of the Azovstal metallurgical plant to evacuate civilians,” the Russian Ministry of Defence stated.
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Azovstal is the last pocket of resistance in the besieged city of Mariupol. Residents have been unable to flee, while aid and aid workers have been unable to reach civilians since the invasion by Russian forces at the end of February.
Civilians have been stranded in the plant for months with very little food, water and light as they hid in underground bunkers in the large steelworks while Russia razed the city.
Last week, despite the remaining battalions in the steel plant, Vladimir Putin claimed the ‘liberation of Mariupol.’ Reports from the ground claim that 95% of Mariupol is destroyed.
Death toll rises
An AP investigation into the Russian bombing of the Mariupol Arts Theatre has revealed that the death toll of civilians was actually as high as 600, double the Ukrainian government's initial estimate. The attack is considered to be one of the most deadly so far, with many indicators pointing to an alleged war crime by Russian forces.
On Thursday, Ukraine forces claimed they had won back several occupied settlements around Mykolayiv and Kherson in the country’s south.
Russian forces, on the other hand, have claimed on Thursday morning to have killed 600 Ukrainian soldiers in the night, with attacks on aviation equipment at the Kanatovo airfield in Ukraine’s central Kirovohrad region, and a large ammunition depot in the southern city of Mykolaiv.