Russia has issued an ultimatum to the last Ukrainian defenders of Mariupol, urging them to lay down their arms on Sunday and evacuate this strategic port in south-eastern Ukraine, the capture of which would mark a key victory for Moscow.
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Russian forces also said they bombed a new arms factory near Kyiv for the third straight day on Sunday, following their threat to step up strikes against the Ukrainian capital after its flagship fleet was destroyed in the Black Sea.
In Mariupol, which the Russian armed forces control almost completely after heavy fighting, with the exception of a pocket of resistance, the situation is “inhuman,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday evening.
He urged Westerners to “immediately” provide the heavy weapons he had been asking for for several weeks and threatened to halt peace negotiations with Moscow if the last Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol were “eliminated”.
The Russian Defense Ministry has urged the last Ukrainian militants holed up in the Azovstal metallurgical complex to end fighting by 6 a.m. Moscow time (0300 GMT) on Sunday and to evacuate the site before 1300 (1000 GMT).
“All those who have given up their guns will have their lives saved,” the ministry assured on Telegram. “It’s her only chance.”
Early Sunday morning, the Ukrainian General Staff said the city had come under aerial attack from the Russians, particularly from the Donetsk region. He also mentioned “assault operations near the port” in a statement, with no further details.
The capture of this city would be an important victory for the Russians, as it would allow them to consolidate their territorial gains on the coast along the Sea of Azov, linking the Donbass region, partially controlled by their supporters, with Moscow-annexed Crimea in 2014.
According to Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, who met Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday, the Russian president believes he is winning the war sparked by his February 24 invasion of Ukraine.
“I think he’s in his own war logic now,” Mr Nehammer said in an interview with NBC, excerpts of which were released on Saturday. “I think he thinks he’s winning the war.”
For his part, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, in an interview with the daily Il Corriere della Sera on Sunday, regretted the apparent ineffectiveness of the “dialogue” with Vladimir Putin and noted that these contacts did not prevent the “scary” .further in Ukraine.
“The situation in Mariupol remains as serious as it gets. Simply inhuman,” Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video message.
According to him, there are only “two options”: either the Westerners immediately supply heavy weapons to help him lift the siege of Mariupol, home of 441,000 people before the February 24 invasion, or help him negotiate a cessation of fighting to achieve and lift the siege” of this city of 441,000 people before the February 24 invasion.
“There is no food, no water, no medicine,” he enthused about the media, accusing the Russians of “refusing” to set up humanitarian corridors.
According to World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley, more than 100,000 civilians in Mariupol are at risk of starvation because they also lack water and a source of heating.
Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Iryna Vereshchuk on Sunday called for the opening of an evacuation route for wounded soldiers from Mariupol.
At the same time, she announced the suspension of humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians from eastern Ukraine, due to the failure to reach a ceasefire agreement with the Russian army.
In the Kyiv region, the Russian Defense Ministry announced on Sunday that it had fired high-precision rockets at an ammunition factory near Brovary.
Brovary Mayor Igor Sapojko claimed that “some infrastructure elements were affected” in the early hours of Sunday.
An AFP journalist at the scene saw no destruction, smoke or fire.
In the past three days, after destroying the cruiser Moskva in the Black Sea, Russian forces have carried out several attacks on military factories in and around Kyiv.
The Ukrainians claim to have caused the sinking thanks to their Neptune anti-ship missiles. The Pentagon agreed, saying the Russian ship was hit by two Ukrainian missiles on Thursday.
A version that the Russian authorities have not officially endorsed and which merely evokes a fire that caused the explosion of ammunition on board the building, which sank a few hours later during towing.
However, Moscow has warned against intensifying its strikes against the Ukrainian capital.
A Russian attack on Friday hit a complex in the Kyiv region that manufactures Neptun rockets.
And on Saturday, one person was killed and “several” had to be hospitalized after an industrial complex in Darnytsky district on the outskirts of Kyiv, which mainly produces tanks, was attacked, the capital’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said.
Kyiv and its environs had been relatively unscathed by bombardment since the Russian army withdrew from the area in late March, but the loss of the Moskva River ignited Moscow’s ire.
Russian forces also bombed an oil refinery in eastern Ukraine, four kilometers from Lysytchansk, very close to the front line, on Saturday, according to local authorities.
From the road along the site, AFP journalists could still see burning tanks and a long plume of black smoke driven by the wind late Saturday afternoon.
In the Odessa region of southern Ukraine, “Russian anti-aircraft defenses shot down a Ukrainian military transport plane that was carrying a large amount of weapons shipped to Ukraine from Western countries,” the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed on Saturday.
Almost five million people have fled Ukraine since February 24, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said, adding that 40,200 more people had fled their country in the past 24 hours.