LVIV: (Web Desk)-Russian forces pushed deeper into Ukraine’s besieged and battered port city of Mariupol on Saturday, where heavy fighting shut down a major steel plant and local authorities pleaded for more Western help.
The fall of Mariupol, the scene of some of the war’s worst suffering, would mark a major battlefield advance for the Russians, who are largely bogged down outside major cities more than three weeks into the biggest land invasion in Europe since World War II.
“Children, elderly people are dying. The city is destroyed and it is wiped off the face of the earth,” Mariupol police officer Michail Vershnin said from a rubble-strewn street in a video addressed to Western leaders that was authenticated by The Associated Press.
Details also began to emerge Saturday about a rocket attack that killed as many as 40 marines in the southern city of Mykolaiv the previous day, according to a Ukrainian military official who spoke to The New York Times.
Russian forces have already cut Mariupol off from the Sea of Azov, and its fall would link Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, to eastern territories controlled by Moscow-backed separatists. It would mark a rare advance in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance that has dashed Russia’s hopes for a quick victory and galvanized the West.
Ukrainian and Russian forces battled over the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Vadym Denysenko, adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said. “One of the largest metallurgical plants in Europe is actually being destroyed,” Denysenko said in televised remarks.
The Mariupol city council claimed hours later that Russian soldiers had forcibly relocated several thousand city residents, mostly women and children, to Russia. It didn’t say where, and AP could not immediately confirm the claim.
Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said the nearest forces that could assist Mariupol were already struggling against “the overwhelming force of the enemy” and that “there is currently no military solution to Mariupol.”