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War in Ukraine: Russia targets Odessa and razes the last remaining Azovstal steel mill with 100 civilians still inside

A rain of Russian missiles hit the city of Odessa, in southern Ukraine overnight from Monday to Tuesday, signaling Moscow’s apparent effort to pin Ukrainian forces away from the east, where it is focusing its offensive.

The attack in Odessa, in which one person was killed, came just hours after another bombing during a visit to the city by the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, who He had to take refuge underground.

Pentagon officials described the recent persistent attacks on Odessa as part of a broader Russian effort to prevent Ukrainian forces from redeploying to eastern Ukraine, and a senior Defense Department official said Russia does not have the capacity to launch a large-scale offensive in the city, a port jewel on the Black Sea.

The bombings on Odessa, specifically against a shopping center and a warehouse, took place after a relative day calm in Ukraine as Moscow celebrated its annual Victory Day.

Although Russian forces continue to aim heavy firepower at Ukrainian cities, the Pentagon said President Vladimir Putin’s forces were doing “anemic” advances, and the British Defense Ministry said the Russian leader’s underestimation of Ukraine’s stiff resistance has prevented him from declaring “a significant military success”. “in the patriotic celebrations” of May 9.

Still, Russia said its forces were making some progress along the main front line in the East. The Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that its forces had pushed deeper into Ukrainian territory, reaching the border between the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

The mall attacked in Odessa.  Photo: AFP

The mall attacked in Odessa. Photo: AFP

The final battle for Mariupol

More than a thousand Ukrainian soldiers were still entrenched this Tuesday in the Azovstal steelworks in Mariúpol along with about 100 civilians what could not be evacuated of the gigantic industrial plant, a town in southeastern Ukraine that has been besieged for weeks by Russian troops.

By force of tanks and aerial bombardments, the Russians have reinforced their offensive on the dying plant in recent hours, which has served for more than two months as a bunker for soldiers and civilians, housed in a labyrinth of underground tunnels with shortages of all kinds. .

Siege of the Azovstal plant in Mariupol

Thus, the final battle for Mariupol is fought in the sprawling Azovstal steelworks, surrounded by Russian troops.

Ukrainian officials say the Soviet-era site has come under heavy Russian attack in recent days after civilians were evacuated, and that attempts by the invading forces to storm the site have failedclaims that cannot be independently verified.

Over the weekend, authorities said all the elderly, women and children they had been rescued in missions coordinated by the UN and the Red Cross. The UN, however, has not confirmed. The news that at least 100 civilians remain on site.

Azovstal steelworks.  Photo: Reuters

Azovstal steelworks. Photo: Reuters

The families of the combatants are desperately searching for a plan to guarantee their evacuation as well. That, however, seems highly unlikely.

At an extraordinary news conference broadcast live from a bunker on Sunday, two fighters rejected the idea that they might surrender.

“We don’t have much chance of surviving if we get caught,” one of them said. “We’re basically dead men. Most of us know that.”

Mariupol is strategically important to Russia, as it would allow Moscow to create a land bridge between the eastern areas of Donetsk and Luhansk, which were controlled by Russian-backed separatists before this invasion began, and the Crimean peninsula, invaded and annexed by Russia. Russia in 2014.

The war in the East

After the bombings in Odessa, which left at least one dead and five wounded, the Ukrainian General Staff announced on Tuesday that the Russian artillery fire and aerial bombardment continued to plague the East of the country.

In the Donbas basin, in the East, Russian troops “continue to prepare offensive operations in the Liman and Severodonetsk regions,” according to Ukrainian military sources.

The Russian Ministry of Defense announced the seizure of Popasna, between Kramatorsk and Lugansk, in the north of Donbas, with which the Russian and pro-Russian forces were able to reach “the administrative border of the Lugansk People’s Republic” (a self-proclaimed republic by the pro-Russian separatists), just where it borders another separatist region and also a self-proclaimed republic, that of Donetsk.

13.6 million displaced

Since Russia began its invasion of the former Soviet republic on February 24, more than 8 million people have had to leave their homes and take refuge elsewhere in the country, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported on Tuesday.

This UN body estimates that, as of May 3, a total of 13.6 million people they had to flee their homesa part of them went abroad and just over 8 million settled elsewhere in Ukraine.

But after more than two months of war, to the capital, kyiv, which was deserted at the end of February“almost two thirds” have already returned of its 3.5 million inhabitants, said the mayor, Vitali Klitschko.

The foreign ministers of Germany and the Netherlands, Annalena Baerbock and Wopke Hoekstr, respectively, arrived in the suburbs of kyiv on Tuesday.

The foreign ministers of Germany and the Netherlands, Annalena Baerbock and Wopke Hoekstr, arrived in the suburbs of kyiv on Tuesday.  Photo: EFE

The foreign ministers of Germany and the Netherlands, Annalena Baerbock and Wopke Hoekstr, arrived in the suburbs of kyiv on Tuesday. Photo: EFE

Baerbock met with residents of the city of Bucha, northwest of kyiv, where Russian troops were accused of kill dozens of civilians in March, when they occupied the area. There, the minister promised that those responsible for the massacres “will be held accountable.”

“We owe it to the victims…to hold the criminals accountable. That is what we are going to do as an international community, it is the promise that we can and must give them, here in Bucha,” he declared.

On Monday, during his visit to Odessa, the president of the European Council promised that the European Union will support kyiv “as long as it takes.”

European Council President Charles in a bomb shelter in Odessa.  Photo: AFP

European Council President Charles in a bomb shelter in Odessa. Photo: AFP

The Ukrainians can also count on vast US military aid, already amounting to $3.8 billion since the beginning of the conflict on February 24.

US President Joe Biden on Monday activated a mechanism of a WWII law to help the Allies defeat Nazi Germany in order to accelerate the shipment of weapons to Ukraine.

“I am convinced that Putin believed he could break NATO, that he believed he could break the European Union,” Biden said later at a private fundraiser.

The date of this Biden signing, May 9, coincided with the great military parade in Moscow’s Red Square to celebrate the 77th anniversary of Russia’s victory over the Nazis.

Clarín newsroom with information from AFP, The New York Times and BBC News


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