Ukraine repels Russian attacks; Mariupol plant battle rages

LVIV: UkraineOn Thursday, the country’s military said it had retaken some areas in the south and repelled Russian attacks in the east, as a bloody battle broke out at a steel plant in the country. Mariupol where Ukrainian troops hid in tunnels and bunkers to fend off the onslaught of Russia.
Ten weeks after a brutal war, Ukrainian and Russian forces are fighting village by village, while Moscow struggles to gain momentum in the eastern industrial heart of the Donbas. Russia shifted focus to that area – where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for years – after a stiffer-than-expected resistance left its troops bogged down and hindered. The original objective was to capture the capital.
In addition to the intense shelling of the Donbas, Russian forces also relentlessly bombarded railway stations and other supply line targets across the country – part of an effort to disrupt arms supplies. of the West, which is vital to Ukraine’s defense.
Ukrainian forces on Thursday said they had made some gains on the borders of the southern regions of Kherson and Mykolaiv and repelled 11 Russian attacks in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that make up the Donbas.
Five people were killed and at least 25 others injured in shelling on cities in the Donbas over the past 24 hours, Ukrainian officials said. The attacks damaged several homes and a school.
Air raid sirens sounded in cities across the country on Wednesday night, while Russian attacks were reported near the capital, Kyiv; in Cherkasy and Dnipro in central Ukraine; and in Zaporizhzhia in the southeast. In Dnipro, authorities said a railway facility was attacked – following a number of previous attacks on railway stations around the country. Sirens sounded again early Thursday in the western city of Lviv, which has been a gateway to western weapons and serves as a relative safe haven for runners. escaped from the fighting further east.
A review by the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War says Russian forces are struggling to gain traction.
“Ukrainian defense forces have largely prevented Russian advances in eastern Ukraine,” it said late Wednesday.
“Russian forces increased their airstrikes against transport infrastructure in western Ukraine (on Wednesday) but were still unable to stop Western aid shipments to Ukraine,” it added. .
In the most poignant example of Ukrainian forces slowing Russia’s advance, Ukrainian warplanes staged a rally at the vast Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol – the last drive of resistance in a city controlled by Moscow forces.
“With the support of aircraft, the enemy continued the attack to gain control of the plant,” the General Staff of the Ukrainian army said on Thursday. A plume of black smoke rose above the plant on Wednesday.
The Ukrainians say Russian forces have entered the perimeter of the plant and are also bombing it from above. The Kremlin denied any ground attack.
Denys Prokopenko, commander of the Ukrainian Azov regiment guarding the plant, said in a video posted Wednesday that the incursions continued for a second day, “and there were heavy, bloody battles. ”
The fall of Mariupol would deprive Ukraine of a vital port, allow Russia to establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula it seized from Ukraine in 2014, and free up troops to fight in those areas. elsewhere in the Donbas.
The city, and specifically the factory, became a symbol of the misery caused by war. The Russians crushed most of Mariupol in a two-month siege that left civilians stranded with little food, water, medicine, or heat. The people hiding inside the factory probably suffered even more. About 100 of them were evacuated over the weekend – the first time some had seen the light of day in months.
The Russian government said it would open another evacuation corridor from the plant during certain hours from Thursday to Saturday. But there was no immediate confirmation of those arrangements from other parties, and many earlier assurances from the Kremlin were fizzled, with the Ukrainians blaming the Russians’ continued fighting.
It is not clear how many Ukrainian fighters are still in the factory, but the Russians put the number at around 2,000 in recent weeks, and 500 were reported injured. This week, the Ukrainian side said several hundred civilians were still there.
The United Nation announced that more than 300 civilians were evacuated Wednesday from Mariupol and other nearby communities. The evacuees have reached Zaporizhzhia, about 140 miles (230 km) northwest, where they are receiving humanitarian assistance.
“Many people have nothing but the clothes they’re wearing, and we’ll be supporting them during this difficult time, including much-needed psychological support.” Osnat LubraniUN humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Belarus, which Russia used as a training ground for its invasion, announced the start of military exercises on Wednesday. A top Ukrainian official said the country would be ready to act if Belarus got involved in the fighting.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense on Thursday said it does not anticipate that the current exercises pose a threat to Ukraine, but it is likely that Moscow will use them to “fix Ukrainian forces in the north, prevent prevent them from participating in the battle of Donbas.” ”
In addition to supplying arms to Ukraine, Europe and the United States have sought to punish Moscow with sanctions, targeting its vital energy sector. The top European Union official on Wednesday called on the 27-nation bloc to ban imports of Russian oil, a key source of revenue.
This proposal needs to be unanimously approved by the EU countries and is likely to be fiercely debated. Hungary and Slovakia have said they will not participate in any oil sanctions, but they could be exempt.
The EU is also talking about a possible embargo on Russian natural gas. The bloc has approved cutting coal imports.

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