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Thousands are reportedly injured as the battle for Mariupol continues with Russia claiming victory Thursday as Ukrainian officials warning world leaders this is a “key moment.”

“There are about 1000 civilians and 500 wounded military. They all need to be pulled out of Azovstal today,” Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereschuk said in a Facebook post referring to Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant.

Smoke rises above a plant of Mariupol Azovstal Iron and Steel Works factory on Wednesday. 

Smoke rises above a plant of Mariupol Azovstal Iron and Steel Works factory on Wednesday.
(REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko)

PUTIN SAYS IT’S ‘UNNECESSARY’ TO STORM FINAL MARIUPOL HOLDOUT, ORDERS BLOCKADE

Russia has repeatedly ordered Ukrainian fighters holed up in the Azovstal metallurgical plant – which has become a stronghold for the resistance – to surrender or die.

Mariupol civilians and fighters alike have hunkered down in the deep tunnels under the plant for weeks amid Russia’s continued bombardment of the city.

Ukrainian officials have attempted several evacuation efforts as roughly 120,000 thousand Ukrainians have remained trapped in the war-torn port city for weeks.

Russia claimed earlier this week that it would allow those bunkered in the tunnels to voluntarily lay down their arms and evacuate, but Vereschuk warned Tuesday that no such agreement had been fully reached and four people attempting to flee the city were killed.

Ukrainian officials on Wednesday then worked to send 90 buses to Mariupol to evacuate as many as 6,000 residents at designated evacuation points.

Servicemen of Donetsk People's Republic militia walk past damaged vehicles during a heavy fighting in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol, Ukraine, Tuesday, April 19, 2022. Taking Mariupol would deprive Ukraine of a vital port and complete a land bridge between Russia and the Crimean Peninsula, seized from Ukraine from 2014. 

Servicemen of Donetsk People’s Republic militia walk past damaged vehicles during a heavy fighting in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol, Ukraine, Tuesday, April 19, 2022. Taking Mariupol would deprive Ukraine of a vital port and complete a land bridge between Russia and the Crimean Peninsula, seized from Ukraine from 2014.
((AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov)

RUSSIA ISOLATES OCCUPIED AREAS AND SHOOTS AID WORKERS, UKRAINE CONTINUES EVACUATIONS

But Vereschuk said the attempts were once again foiled by Russian forces.

“Due to the lack of control over their own military at the place, the occupiers were unable to ensure a proper ceasefire,” she wrote on Facebook, later noting only four buses were able to evacuate Mariupol residents.

Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed victory over Mariupol Thursday despite the fact that thousands of resistance fighters remain in the city, and they have been unable to secure the Azovstal steel plant.

“One does not have to climb into these catacombs and crawl there underground around these industrial objects,” Putin said. “Block this industrial zone in such a way that even a fly could not fly through.”

Smoke rises above Azovstal steelworks, in Mariupol, Ukraine, in this still image obtained from a recent drone video posted on social media. 

Smoke rises above Azovstal steelworks, in Mariupol, Ukraine, in this still image obtained from a recent drone video posted on social media.
(MARIUPOL CITY COUNCIL/via REUTERS  THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.)

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Putin claimed that those still resisting in Mariupol would be “guarantee[d] life and dignified treatment,” but Vereschuk pleaded with world leaders to immediately step in and assist.

“I urge world leaders and the international community to focus now their efforts exactly on Azovstal,” she said. “This is a key point and a key moment for humanitarian efforts.”

 

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