Russia tells Ukrainian troops in Mariupol to lay down arms

TWISTED STEEL, BLASTED CONCRETE

In Mariupol, Reuters journalists reached the giant Illich steelworks, one of two metals plants where defenders had held out in underground tunnels and bunkers. Moscow claimed to have captured it on Friday.

The factory was reduced to a ruin of twisted steel and blasted concrete, with no sign of defenders present. Several bodies of civilians lay scattered on nearby streets.

The Russian defence ministry said its troops had “completely cleared” Mariupol’s urban area of Ukrainian forces and blockaded the “remnants” in the Azovstal steelworks, RIA news agency said. It said that as of Saturday, Ukrainian forces in the city had lost more than 4,000 people.

Zelenskyy accused Russia of “deliberately trying to destroy everyone” in Mariupol and said his government was in touch with the defenders. He did not address Moscow’s claim that Ukrainian forces were no longer in urban districts.

The governor of Kharkiv province in the east said at least one person was killed and 18 injured in a missile strike. Smoke billowed from burning cars and the remains of what appeared to be an office building in the city.

In Mykolaiv, close to the southern front, Russia said it had struck a military vehicle repair factory.

The attacks followed Russia’s announcement on Friday it would intensify long-range strikes in retaliation for unspecified acts of “sabotage” and “terrorism”, hours after it confirmed the sinking of its Black Sea flagship, the Moskva.

Kyiv and Washington say the ship, whose sinking has become a symbol of Ukrainian defiance, was hit by Ukrainian missiles. Moscow says it sank after a fire and its crew of around 500 were evacuated.

Russia’s defence ministry published a video of the head of the navy, Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov, meeting on a parade ground with about a hundred sailors it said were members of the crew.

RUSSIA’S BIGGEST PRIZE

If Mariupol falls it would be Russia’s biggest prize of the war so far. It is the main port of Donbas, a region of two provinces in the southeast that Moscow demands be fully ceded to separatists.

Ukraine says it has so far held off Russian advances elsewhere in the Donbas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, where at least one person was killed in shelling overnight.

Ukraine gained the upper hand in the early phase of the war, in part by successfully deploying mobile units armed with anti-tank missiles supplied by the West against Russian armoured convoys confined to roads by muddy terrain.

But Putin appears determined to capture more Donbas territory to claim victory in a war that has left Russia subject to increasingly punitive Western sanctions and with few allies.

The European Union’s forthcoming round of sanctions on Russia will target banks, including Sberbank, as well as oil, the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen told the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

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