Ukraine said on Wednesday it had reached a tentative agreement to establish a humanitarian corridor and evacuate thousands of people from the besieged coastal city of Mariupol on Wednesday, as Russia hurled its military might against Ukrainian towns and villages in an attempt to enter the country. cut in half and gain control. from the eastern industrial heart of coal mines and factories.
The fighting took place along a boomerang-shaped front spanning hundreds of miles in what is known as the eastern Donbas region. If successful, Russian President Vladimir Putin could claim a victory after his failed attempt to storm the capital Kiev, inflicting heavier-than-expected Russian casualties.
“We are probably going to our last days, if not hours”
Key to the Russian campaign is the capture of the city of Mariupol, which would deprive Ukraine of a vital port and complete a land bridge between Russia and the Crimean peninsula, which Russia captured from Ukraine in 2014. It would also free up Russian troops to relocate to another place in the Donbas region.
Ukrainian troops said the Russian army dropped heavy bombs to flatten what remained of a sprawling steel mill in Mariupol – believed to be the city’s last defenders – and hit a hospital where hundreds were staying.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said there was a “provisional” agreement to open a humanitarian corridor for women, children and the elderly to leave Mariupol westward to the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhya on Wednesday afternoon. She said on the messaging app Telegram that civilians in Mariupol were dealing with a “catastrophic humanitarian situation”.
Vereshchuk previously said no agreement had been reached with Russia on an evacuation route in the past three days. There was no immediate confirmation from the Russian side, which on Wednesday issued a new ultimatum to Ukrainian defenders to surrender after a previous ultimatum had been ignored. Ukraine and Russia have often blamed each other for hindering the evacuation from Mariupol or firing along the agreed-upon route, which was usually only accessible to people in private vehicles.
“We are probably going to be in our last days, if not hours,” a commander of the Ukrainian marines fighting at the steel plant, Serhiy Volyna, said in a video posted on social media. “The enemy outnumbers us 10 to 1. They have an advantage in the air, in artillery, in their forces on land, in equipment and in tanks. We defend only one object, the Azovstal factory where, in addition to soldiers, there are also civilians who have been victims of this war. We call and beg all world leaders to help us. We ask them to use the procedure of “extraction” and take us to the territory of a third state. All of us , Mariupol military battalion of soldiers, more than 500 wounded and hundreds of civilians, including women and children, we plead for safety on the territory of a third state,” Volyna said.
“I can confirm that there are many civilians,” Mariupol Deputy Mayor Sergei Orlov told BBC News, partner network BBC News. “They know that steel mills had a good shelter and some food and water in the shelter, so they decided to live in this shelter with their families.”
Orlov said there is currently no help for the people in the steel plant.
“They have an absolute lack of everything. A lack of water, food, medicine, aid and Russia is blocking everything, any humanitarian aid or evacuation,” Orlov said.
The fighting continues
The eastern cities of Kharkiv and Kramatorsk were also fatally attacked. Russia said it has hit areas around Dnipro and Zaporizhzhya with missiles.
29-year-old paratrooper Vyacheslav Dimovon was laid to rest near Zaporizhzhya after a Russian anti-tank mine was killed on Saturday. His mother, Alla, told CBS News’ Charlie D’Agata how important it had been for Dimovon to fight for his country.
“He dreamed like a madman about becoming a soldier,” said Alla. “But I didn’t bring him into this world for war, but for a peaceful life. So that he could live with his beloved wife Ivanna.”
Dimovon and his 23-year-old widow had only been married for 18 months. They planned to start a family when the war broke out.
“Every time we spoke, I said to him, ‘I love you, take care of yourself,'” Ivanna told CBS News. She said she had known that any video call with her husband could be their last.
“‘Now it’s, ‘I love you, take care of me,'” she said.
Both sides have described the Russian attack that began Monday as a new phase of the war.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the Russian military is throwing everything it has into battle, with most of its battle-ready troops now concentrated in Ukraine and just across the border into Russia.
“They have expelled almost everyone and everything capable of fighting against Ukraine,” he said in his overnight video address to the nation.
Despite claims that they are only attacking military sites, the Russians continue to attack residential areas and kill civilians, he said. He also said the Kremlin has not responded to…Viktor Medvedchuk, the imprisoned leader of a pro-Russian party, in front of the Mariupol defenders.
A senior US defense official, speaking anonymously to discuss the Pentagon’s assessments of the war, said the Russians had added two combat units, known as battalion tactical groups, to Ukraine in the past 24 hours. That brought the total number of units in the country to 78, all in the south and east, from 65 last week, the official said.
That would work out to 55,000 to 62,000 troops, based on what the Pentagon said at the start of the war was the typical unit strength of 700 to 800 soldiers. But at this stage it is difficult to accurately determine Russia’s combat capability.
A European official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military assessments, said Russia also has 10,000 to 20,000 foreign fighters in the Donbas region. According to the official, it is a mix of mercenaries from Russia’s private Wagner Group and Russian proxy fighters from Syria and Libya.