Ukraine enters “long” phase of war, defense minister says

A satellite image of the damage to the eastern end of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 12.
A satellite image of the damage to the eastern end of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, on May 12. (Maxar Technologies)

Ukrainian officials say besieged soldiers at the Azovstal steel plant have come under Russian bombardment again.

Petro Andrushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, said planes dropped heavy bombs on the factory, “because very powerful explosions are heard. People also saw smoke columns.

“As far as I understand, after bombing, the Russians may try to launch ground attacks,” he said.

“The territory of the plant is huge, she [the Russians] trying to break through the facility, gain a foothold and find entrances and exits to the underground areas — where the field hospital is, where our defenders are,” Andrushcheko said.

So far, their attempts to invade the plant had not been very successful. “And this is what causes the new shelling, the new artillery cover for these ground operations,” Andrushchenko said.

He also said more people were returning to Mariupol because the Russians did not allow them into Ukraine-occupied territory.

“People are returning because of the actual closure of all green corridors by the Russian Federation. People who have settled in the Mariupol, Nikolske and Berdiansk districts and who cannot reach Zaporizhzhya are forced to return to the city, to their homes At the same time we haven’t seen an increase in food supplies,” he said.

According to Iryna Vereshchuk, the deputy prime minister of Ukraine, the International Red Cross is discussing with Russian officials the fate of the seriously injured still detained in Azovstal.

“We have started a new round of negotiations on the special operation roadmap. Let’s start with the seriously injured,” she said.

“We want a document to be signed: how exactly the evacuation from Azovstal will take place, we are preparing to sign it.”

Vereshchuk said Turkey has agreed to act as a mediator in the current round of talks.

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