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Putin declares victory in Mariupol, despite the stability of the metallurgical plant News

KIU, Ukraine – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday he had won the battle for Mariupol, despite an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian fighters still hiding near the giant steel plant, ordering his troops not to storm the stronghold but to close it. her, “so that not even a fly penetrates.”

Putin expressed concern about the lives of the Russian military, deciding not to send them to clear the Azovstal plant, where staunch defenders were hiding in a maze of underground passages.

Putin’s comments came as satellite imagery provider Maxar Technologies released photos showing more than 200 mass graves in the city, where Ukrainian officials say Russians are hiding Mariupol residents killed in the fighting. The pictures show long rows of graves stretching from the existing cemetery in the town of Mangush behind Mariupol.

Mariupol Mayor Vadzim Boychanka accused the Russians of “hiding their war crimes”, taking the bodies of civilians out of the city and burying them in Mangush.

Up to 9,000 civilians may be buried in mass graves in Manhusha, Mariupol City Council said in a statement on Thursday in the Telegram messaging program.

Boychenko called Russia’s actions in the city “the new Babin Yar,” citing the site of numerous Nazi massacres that killed nearly 34,000 Ukrainian Jews in 1941.

A statement from Maxar said a review of previous images shows that new graves were excavated in late March and expanded over the past couple of weeks.

After nearly two deadly months the bombing, which was greatly reduced Mariupol to the smoking ruinRussian forces appear to control the rest of the strategic southern city, including its vital but now badly damaged port.

But several thousand Ukrainian servicemen, according to Moscow estimates, are there for weeks he persisted in the metallurgical plant, despite strikes by Russian troops and repeated demands for their surrender. According to Ukrainian officials, there are also trapped about 1,000 civilians.

Instead of sending troops to finish off the defenders in a potentially bloody frontal assault, Russia apparently intends to maintain the siege and wait until the fighters surrender when they run out of food or ammunition.

Boychenko rejected any opinion that Mariupol had fallen into Russia’s hands.

“The city was, is and remains Ukrainian,” he said. “Today our brave warriors, our heroes are defending our city.”

The capture of Mariupol would be the Kremlin’s biggest victory in the war in Ukraine. This would help Moscow secure most of the coastline, complete the land bridge between Russia and the Crimean peninsula, which Russia seized in 2014, and free up more forces to join the larger and perhaps more successful battle that is now going on for the eastern industrial territory of Ukraine, Donbass.

In a joint speech with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Putin said: “The completion of hostilities for the liberation of Mariupol has been successful,” and congratulated Shoigu.

Shoigu predicted that the metallurgical plant could be taken away in three or four days, but Putin said it would be “pointless” and risked the lives of Russians.

“There is no need to climb into these catacombs and crawl underground through these industrial facilities,” said the Russian leader. “Close this industrial zone so that not even a fly flies.”

The factory covers an area of ​​4 square miles and has about 15 miles of tunnels and bunkers.

“Russia’s agenda now is not to seize these really difficult places where Ukrainians can hold out in urban centers, but to try to seize territory, as well as to surround Ukrainian forces and declare a huge victory,” said the retired British counter-administrator. . Chris. Perry said.

Elsewhere, Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Iryna Verashchuk said that the Russian military had abducted a local official who was leading a humanitarian convoy in the south of the Kherson region. She said the Russians offered to release him in exchange for Russian prisoners of war, but she described it as unacceptable.

Verashchuk also said that efforts to create three humanitarian corridors in the Kherson region failed on Thursday because Russian troops did not hold back fire.

Russian officials have been saying for weeks that the main goal of the war is to seize mostly Russian-speaking Donbass. This week, Moscow’s troops opened a new phase of fighting on the 300-mile (480-kilometer) front from the northeastern city of Kharkiv to the Sea of ​​Azov.

Despite the fact that Russia has continued heavy air and artillery attacks in these areas, according to military analysts who said that Moscow’s forces are still stepping up the offensive, in the last few days it does not seem to have gained a significant position.

A senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the Pentagon’s assessment, said Ukrainians were hindering Russia’s efforts to advance south of Izyum.

The rockets hit the Kharkiv area on Thursday, and at least two civilians were burned in their car. A school and a house were also damaged, firefighters tried to put out the fire and look for everyone who was trapped.

Meanwhile, Western countries have rushed to throw heavy weapons into Ukraine to help it resist the offensive in the east.

US President Joe Biden announced an additional $ 800 million in military aid, including heavy artillery, 144,000 munitions and drones. But he also warned that $ 13.6 billion approved by Congress last month for military and humanitarian aid was “almost exhausted” and more would be needed.

In total, more than 100,000 people were trapped without food, water, heat and medicine in Mariupol, with a pre-war population of about 430,000. According to Ukrainian authorities, more than 20,000 people died during the siege.

The city has captured the attention of the world as an arena for some of the hardest suffering of the war, including deadly air strikes on the maternity hospital and theater.

Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russia of attacks to block the evacuation of civilians from the city. On Thursday, at least two Russian attacks hit the city of Zaporozhye, a point of passage for people fleeing Mariupol. No one was injured, the governor said.

The UK Ministry of Defense has said that Russia probably wants to demonstrate significant success on the eve of Victory Day on May 9, the most honorable day in the Russian calendar, which marks the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.

“This may affect how quickly and strongly they will try to carry out operations on the eve of this date,” the ministry said.

In other events, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned Ukrainians living in Russian-controlled southern Ukraine not to provide Russians with their IDs, which he said could be used “to falsify a so-called referendum on our land” to create Moscow-friendly government.

“This is a real opportunity,” he said in his evening video address to the people. “Beware.”

In the ongoing war of sanctions and counter-sanctions between Russia and the West, Moscow announced it had banned US Vice President Kamala Harris, technology billionaire Mark Zuckerberg and 27 other prominent Americans, including foreign observers, from entering Russia.

The move was in response to the Biden administration’s “ever-expanding anti-Russian sanctions,” the ministry said in a statement, targeting people who he said were forming a “Russophobic narrative.”

Similar restrictions were imposed on 61 Canadians.

Associated Press journalists Mstislav Chernov and Felipe Dana in Kharkiv, Ukraine; Esitsa Fish in Kramatorsk, Ukraine; Danica Kirk in London; and Robert Burns and Aamer Madhani of Washington contributed to this report, as did other AP staffers around the world.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.

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