What we know about the situation in Mariupol
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Russian forces were “continuously attacking” the encircled Azovstal steel plant in the besieged city of Mariupol on Orthodox Easter Sunday. The site has become one of the last significant holdouts of Ukrainian forces in the city, and is sheltering hundreds of soldiers and civilians.
Here’s what we know about the situation:
- Sunday bombardment: Russian forces continued to attack the city on Sunday, Ukrainian Capt. Svyatoslav Palamar said in an Easter message. “The enemy continues to drop aerial bombs, ships fire artillery, cannons fire, enemy tanks continue to hit, infantry tries to assault,” he said.
- Who is still fighting there: Troops of Azov — originally formed as a nationalist volunteer battalion but subsequently folded into the Ukrainian military — continue to hold out in the besieged Azovstal plant, along with other Ukrainian forces. The situation at the plant is “close to a catastrophe,” Yuriy Ryzhenkov, the CEO of the company that owns the plant, told CNN on Thursday
- What about civilians: Ukrainian officials estimate that 100,000 civilians require evacuation from the devastated city. In the plant civilians have sheltered for weeks and supplies are running low. On Thursday, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said there were “about 1,000 civilians and 500 wounded servicemen there.”
- “I want to see the sun”: For women and children stuck in the bunker of the Azovstal steelworks, daylight is a rarity. “I want to get out of here and see the sun. We’ve been here for two months now and I want to see the sun,” said one boy.
- Red Cross: The International Committee of the Red Cross said that “immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access” to Mariupol is “urgently needed.” The ICRC said on Sunday it is “deeply alarmed by the situation in Mariupol, where the population is in dire need of assistance.” The ICRC has made several attempts to evacuate civilians from the city, saying “each hour that passes has a terrible human cost.”
- Forcible deportation: Russia has forcibly deported Mariupol citizens to Primorsky Krai in Russia’s Far East region, according to the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights. Lyudmyla Denisova said volunteers told her a train arrived in the city of Nakhodka on April 21 with 308 Ukrainians from Mariupol, including mothers with young children, people with disabilities and students.
- Who controls Mariupol? Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed earlier this week that Russian forces had achieved the “liberation” of Mariupol, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has denied that the city is in Russian control, saying Ukrainian defenders continue to resist there.
- Zelensky warns Putin: Zelensky said Saturday that if Ukrainians in the besieged city of Mariupol are killed by Russian forces, and if Russia organizes “pseudo” referendums in occupied territories, Ukraine will stop negotiations with the Russian side.