Ukraine loses contact with its troops amid 'hard fighting' at Azovstal steelworks

Ukraine loses contact with its troops amid ‘hard fighting’ at Azovstal steelworks

The Kremlin has denied that Russian forces attacked the factory earlier on Wednesday, with spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying “there is no aggression”, according to Russian news agency RIA.

Kyiv’s Defense Ministry said Moscow was trying to step up the pace of its recent offensive in the east of the country, in which fully capturing Mariupol could be an important symbolic moment.

The dire reports about the status of the last Ukrainian forces in Mariupol come two weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory in the city and ordered his troops not to storm the factory but to seal it off so that nothing can enter or leave.

Videos of remaining fighters and accounts of evacuees walking out of Azovstal painted a desperate picture of endless Russian shelling, wounded without access to medicine and food shortages.

A Russian marine guards an area outside the Azovstal plant in Mariupol on Tuesday.Alexey Kudenko/Sputnik via AP

Fighters from the Azov Regiment, an experienced volunteer force with neo-Nazi roots that defends the steel plant, regularly post videos on social media describing Russian attacks and conditions inside the site.

On Tuesday, the Azov regiment said in a video on Telegram that Russian forces launched a “powerful assault”.

“From this moment, a powerful assault on the territory of the Azovstal plant is underway, with the support of armored vehicles, tanks, attempted landings by boat and a large number of infantry” , said the deputy commander of the Azov regiment, Svyatoslav Palamar. , says in the video.

Ukraine and international aid agencies had negotiated the release of the civilians and said they hoped to get more in the coming days.

Artem Grudinin and Reuters contributed.

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