Russia resumes shelling Ukraine's besieged Mariupol steel plant after partial evacuation

A Ukrainian military officer says that Russian forces resumed their shelling of a steel plant in war-torn Mariupol immediately after the partial evacuation of civilians from the port city.

Wider evacuation of port city set for Monday, city council says

Civilians evacuated from steel plant in besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol

2 years ago
Duration 1:08
An evacuation effort has rescued dozens of civilians from the Azovstal steel plant in the Eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, where they spent weeks holed up as Russian forces bombarded the area.

A Ukrainian military officer says that Russian forces resumed their shelling of a steel plant in war-torn Mariupol immediately after the partial evacuation of civilians from the port city.

Ukrainian National Guard brigade commander Denys Shlega said Sunday in a televised interview that the shelling began as soon as rescue crews ceased evacuating the Azovstal steel mill of civilians.

Shlega says that at least one more round is needed to clear civilians from the plant. He says dozens of small children remain in bunkers below the industrial facilities.

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The commander estimates that several hundred civilians still are trapped at the site alongside nearly 500 wounded soldiers and numerous dead bodies. The plant is the only part of the city not occupied by the Russians.

Earlier on Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a tweet that a group of about 100 people were on their way from the Azovstal steelworks to the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia.

The UN said the convoy to evacuate civilians from Mariupol started on Friday, travelling some 230 kilometres to reach the plant on Saturday morning.

UN humanitarian spokesperson Saviano Abreu the rescued women, children and the elderly — who have been stranded for nearly two months — will receive immediate humanitarian support, including psychological services, in Zaporizhzhia.

Some of the evacuees from Mariupol arrived in Bezimenne, a village which is under the control of Moscow-backed separatists in Eastern Ukraine, accompanied by UN and Red Cross representatives.

Meanwhile, a Ukrainian military official called for wounded Ukrainian fighters to also be evacuated from the steelworks, alongside the civilians.

"We don't know why they are not taken away and their evacuation to the territory controlled by Ukraine is not being discussed," Ukrainian regiment Deputy Cmdr. Sviatoslav Palamar said in a video shared to Telegram.

Mariupol's city council says a broad, UN-backed evacuation of the wider city of civilians is set to begin on Monday, after being delayed by security concerns.

As many as 100,000 people are believed to still be in Mariupol, which has seen some of the worst suffering of the war. A maternity hospital was hit with a lethal Russian airstrike in the war's opening weeks, and hundreds of people were reported killed in the bombing of a theatre where civilians were taking shelter.

Like other evacuations, success of the mission in Mariupol depended on Russia and its forces, deployed along a long series of checkpoints before reaching Ukrainian ones. 

People fleeing Russian-occupied areas have described their vehicles being fired on, and Ukrainian officials have repeatedly accused Russian forces of shelling evacuation routes on which the two sides had agreed.

Fighting in Donbas

Four civilians were reported killed and 11 more were injured by Russian shelling in the Donetsk region on Sunday, the regional Donbas governor said that evening.

The deaths and seven of the injuries were in the northern city of Lyman, governor Pavlo Kyrylenko wrote in a Telegram post. One person also died in the city of Bakhmut from injuries received in the Luhansk region, he said.

Luhansk and Donetsk make up Donbas, a mostly Russian-speaking eastern region partly held by Moscow-backed rebels. Russia has said its main goal is the capture and full control of the region after its initial push to take Kyiv failed.

In his nightly televised address Sunday, Zelensky  accused Moscow of waging "a war of extermination," saying Russian shelling had hit food, grain and fertilizer warehouses, and residential neighbourhoods in the Kharkiv, Donbas and other regions.

"What could be Russia's strategic success in this war? Honestly, I do not know. The ruined lives of people and the burned or stolen property will give nothing to Russia," he said.

Western military analysts have suggested the offensive was going much slower than planned. So far, Russian troops and separatists appeared to have made only minor gains in the month since Moscow said it would focus its military strength in the East.

Blast in Russian region along Ukrainian border

An explosive device damaged a railway bridge Sunday in the Kursk region of Russia, which borders Ukraine, and a criminal investigation has been started. The region's government reported the blast in a post on Telegram.

Recent weeks have seen a number of fires and explosions in Russian regions near the Ukrainian border, including Kursk. An ammunition depot in the Belgorod region burned after explosions were heard, and authorities in the Voronezh region said an air defence system shot down a drone. An oil storage facility in Bryansk was engulfed by fire a week ago.

The explosion Sunday caused a partial collapse of the bridge near the village of Konopelka, on the Sudzha-Sosnovy Bor railway, the report from Kursk said.

"It was a sabotage, a criminal case has been opened," said the region's governor, Roman Starovoit, according to TASS. He said there were no casualties, and no effect on the movement of trains.