A the video appeared Interior of the besieged Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol showing women and children who say they ‘lack strength’ and must be urgently evacuated to Ukrainian-held territory.
The film was recorded on Thursday. The women say 15 children live in tunnels under the plant, ranging from babies to teenagers. They are trapped with their families and other civilians, including factory workers.
The video shows several children, one of whom appears to be doing his homework in a coloring book, surrounded by makeshift beds and clothes. A boy says he is desperate to see the sunlight again and breathe the fresh air outside after weeks in a dungeon.
An anonymous woman says she has spent 50 days underground since February 25, the second day of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Others say they took refuge in the factory in early March as Russian forces pounded their apartments with artillery and airstrikes.
Food and water are nearly gone, the woman said, with people “on the brink of hunger”. “All the supplies we brought with us are running out. Soon we won’t even have enough food for the children.
She added: “We are here and need help. We are at the epicenter of events and we cannot get out of it. My child must be evacuated to a peaceful place and others too. We implore security guarantees for our children.
The woman continued: “We are worried about the lives of our children and [elderly] parents who need medical attention. They lack strength and vital power. There is not a single day without bombardments. They are even afraid to go to the toilet.
The Ukrainian government attempted to establish a humanitarian corridor that would allow civilians inside the plant to exit safely. The sprawling factory is a base for the Ukrainian Azov Battalion, part of the National Guard, which shot the video.
Under cover of darkness, Ukrainian forces managed to deliver weapons to soldiers surrounded by helicopter, said Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, adding: “We have a difficult situation, but our army defends our state”.
About 80 civilians escaped from Mariupol on Wednesday in four buses. Ukraine says subsequent attempts failed because Russian troops continue to shell the meeting place. They add that Moscow forcibly deported 40,000 residents to Russian territory.
On Thursday, Putin declared victory in Mariupol. He said his forces, which control the rest of the city and have hoisted a flag over the television tower, would not seek to enter the factory. Instead, they would seal it so “not even a fly could escape”, he told his defense minister, Sergei Shoigu.
In reality, Moscow has resumed its airstrikes and is trying to storm steel mills, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said on Saturday. He said on national television: “The enemy is trying to strangle the final resistance of the defenders of Mariupol in the Azovstal region.”
Russian units continue to cover up evidence of their crimes by removing bodies from rubble in the city, Ukrainian officials said. Satellite images show two new mass graves next to an existing cemetery in the village of Manhush, 15 km west of Mariupol. Between 3,000 and 9,000 civilians are buried there, they suggest.
Among the casualties are civilians killed on March 16 when a Russian warplane leveled the city’s drama theatre. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zekenskiy said 300 people died in the strike. The theater served as a shelter for approximately 1,500 women and children.
Since failing to capture kyiv, the Kremlin has changed its war plan. The current objective is to “liberate” the eastern region of Donbass. On Friday, a Russian general said a second goal was to create a land corridor linking the so-called breakaway people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk with Crimea and the breakaway republic of Transnistria in Moldova.
In its latest intelligence update, the UK Ministry of Defense said Russian tactical battalion groups, which massed in and around Donbass, had made “no major gains in the past 24 hours”. . “Ukrainian counterattacks continue to hamper efforts,” he said.
Further north, the Ukrainian army recovered territory. He liberated three villages around the city of Kharkiv, according to regional governor Oleh Synehubov. Troops had secured positions in the villages of Bezruky, Slatine and Prudianka, he said.
The Ukrainian General Staff said it repelled eight Russian attacks, destroying nine tanks, 18 armored units and 13 vehicles, one tanker and three artillery systems. “The units of the Russian occupiers are regrouping. The enemy continues to launch missiles and bombardments on military and civilian infrastructure,” he said.
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said on Saturday that two people had been killed by Russian shelling in the town of Popasna. He said an evacuation train for residents of Donetsk and Luhansk regions was expected from the eastern city of Pokrovsk bound for the western town of Chop, near Ukraine’s border with Slovakia and Hungary.
“In addition to the fact that street fighting continues in the city for several weeks, the Russian army constantly fires at multi-storey residential buildings and private houses,” Haidai wrote on Instagram.
“Just yesterday, local residents withstood five enemy artillery attacks. Not all of them survived.