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Losses in steelworks battle 'frustrating' Russia's plans to capture Donbas

According to the UK Ministry of Defence, the Russian attack on the last defenders of Mariupol’s Steelworks will continue to thwart its plans to control Donbas.

The Azovstal plant is believed to contain around 2,000 Ukrainian fighters – the last remaining resistance in a city that has been almost entirely destroyed.

A few hundred civilians are believed to also be trapped. However, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine, has stated that more than 150 people have been evacuated from the plant and 300 from the suburbs.

According to the MoD’s latest update, the ground attack on the steelworks was continuing for another day on Thursday.

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According to the report, Russian President Vladimir Putin was trying to retake Mariupol in an effort to have a symbolic victory ahead of Russia’s Victory Day celebrations on May 9.

It said that the battle for the steelworks had been at a “personnel equipment and munitions loss to Russia” and that the losses would “continue to build on and frustrate their operational plans south Donbas as long as Ukraine remains strong”.

Russia launched a new push for the eastern Donbas after removing areas from the capital Kyiv.

Capturing Mariupol could free troops to support that goal.

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Zelenskyy – Evacuation efforts

In the early hours Friday morning, President Zelenskyy stated that Russia continued to hammer its steelworks despite civilians trapped in terrible conditions.

He stated that “Currently, Russian bombardment and assault on Azovstal don’t stop”, but that civilians still need be removed – women, children and many children who remain there.”

“Imagine this hell. There are also children.

“More Than Two Months of Constant Bombing, Shelling, and Death Nearby.”

He spoke highly of the Ukrainian defenders in the city, saying that although many are injured, they don’t give up and are still holding onto their positions.

Image Situation in Ukraine at day 72 of war


Key developments:

* A US official stated that the US shared intelligence about the location and movements of the Russian flagship Moskva with Ukraine before the mid-April strike that destroyed it. However, the decision to attack the missile cruiser was made by Ukraine.

* The Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko said that Russia invaded Ukraine in good faith, but that he didn’t expect the conflict to drag on so he was surprised.

* Ukraine claimed that at least five people were killed in the shelling of Donbas cities over the last 24 hours. Schools, homes, and a hospital were all hit by shells.

* Zelenskyy launched United24, which is a platform for raising funds for post-war reconstruction and mine-clearing. Poland hosted a conference with international donors, which raised PS5.2bn to aid humanitarian needs.

* Ivano-Frankivsk, a western Ukrainian city, told residents to go to the countryside during the long weekend because of fears of new attacks

* Mr Zelenskyy thanked Britain for its support and said: “If every person in the world, or at least the vast majority, were as steadfast, courageous leaders as Ukraine, Britain, I am certain we would have already ended the war and restored peace to all our people’s liberated territories.” This was after Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of Ukraine, addressed the parliament earlier in this week


Steelworks fighters will “stand until the end”

Denys Prokopenko’s wife, Kateryna, said that Denys and other Azov Regiment soldiers would fight for the city until the end.

After speaking by telephone with him, she stated that they only hope for miracles. “They won’t surrender.”

She claimed that her husband had promised her he would always love her, and added: “I am going mad because of this.” It was like saying goodbye.

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Besieged troops during ‘bloody battle

Anton Gerashchenko was an advisor to Ukraine’s Internal Affairs Ministry. He claimed that Russians had stormed the tunnels with the aid of a “betrayer”, a Ukrainian electrician who knew the layout and worked at the site.

Russia denies that its troops are storming this plant. Russia previously stated that it would not attempt to seize the area.

Mariupol was home to a population of around 400,000 before the war. However, this number has dropped to about 100,000 in recent weeks. Those who remain face daily struggles with food and clean water shortages.

The city is still without aid and it has been difficult to evacuate the civilians.

Taking the strategically-important port city would give Russia its first major success in a war that has seen its military fail to gain the upper hand against ferocious Ukrainian defence.

Ten weeks later, Ukraine announced late Thursday that it had gained control over the border of Mykolaiv and Kherson in the south and repulsed Russian attacks in east.

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