Zaporizhia, Ukraine (AFP) – Some women and children were evacuated from a steel plant that is the last defensive stronghold in the ruins of the devastated Ukrainian city of Mariupol, while US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Ukraine’s president in the country’s capital. In a review of US support.
The Russian offensive on the southern coast of coastal Ukraine and the industrial heartland in the east of the country sent Ukrainian forces fighting village after village and more civilians fled from air strikes and artillery shelling as the war approached their doorsteps.
It is believed that thousands of residents remain trapped with little food, water or medicine in the besieged Mariupol. The United Nations has been mediating the evacuation of up to 1,000 civilians who were trapped with an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian fighters under a sprawling Soviet-era steel plant that is the only part of the city not occupied by the Russians.
Footage released by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office early Sunday showed Pelosi in Kyiv with a congressional delegation that included representatives Jason Crowe, Jim McGovern, Gregory Mix and Adam Schiff. The visit was not previously announced.
Pelosi, who ranks second in the US presidency after the vice president and the highest-ranking US leader, said she has been visiting Ukraine since the start of a war.
“We are on the frontier of freedom and your fight is a fight for everyone. Our commitment is to be there for you until the battle is over,” Pelosi added.
Pelosi’s office did not say when the meeting took place, but the light in the video and other details indicate that the meeting took place on Saturday. Congressmen Barbara Lee and Bill Keating were also included in the delegation, although it was not clear if they were in Kyiv.
The delegation was scheduled to hold a press conference in the Polish city of Rzeszow on Sunday.
Russian forces embarked on a major military operation to seize large parts of southern and eastern Ukraine after failing to capture the capital. Mariupol is a major target due to its strategic location near Crimea, which Russia captured from Ukraine in 2014.
On Saturday, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that 19 adults and six children were removed from the Azovstal steel plants, but did not give further details.
A senior official with the Azov Regiment, the Ukrainian unit defending the plant, said 20 civilians had been evacuated during the ceasefire, though it was not clear if he was referring to the same group. There was no confirmation from the United Nations
“These are women and children,” said Svyatoslav Balamar in a video posted on the regiment’s Telegram channel. He also called for the evacuation of the wounded: “We do not know why they were not taken away and their evacuation to the territory controlled by Ukraine is not being discussed.”
Ukraine has blamed the failure of several previous evacuation attempts on continued Russian bombing.
UN humanitarian spokesman Saviano Abreu said the world body was negotiating with the authorities in Moscow and Kiev about the evacuations from Mariupol, but could not provide details of the ongoing efforts “due to the complexity and fluidity of the operation”.
Abreu did not confirm the recording of a video posted on social media purporting to show UN-marked vehicles in Mariupol.
In the town of Lyman in the Donetsk region, where at least half the population has fled from Russian bombing, about 20 elderly people and children carrying bags with their dogs and cats boarded a minibus with a sign that reads “Children’s Evacuation” in Ukrainian. I set out towards Dnipro as explosions were heard in the distance.
The editors came and liberated us from what? Our lives?” said Nina Mihailenko, a professor of Russian language and literature, referring to the Russian troops.
Video and photos from inside the factory, shared with the Associated Press by two Ukrainian women who said their husbands were among the fighters. Refusing to surrender there, he showed unidentified men with stained bandages; Others had open wounds or had limbs amputated.
The women, who identified their husbands as members of the Azov Regiment of the Ukrainian National Guard, said that a skeletal medical staff was treating at least 600 wounded. They said some of the wounds were rotting from gangrene.
The men in the video said they only eat once a day and share at least 1.5 liters (50 ounces) of water a day between four people, and that supplies inside the besieged facility have run out.
The AP was unable to independently verify the date and location of the video, which the women said was taken last week in the maze of hallways and bunkers below the factory.
She urged the women to evacuate the Ukrainian fighters along with the civilians, warning that they could be tortured and executed if captured. “The lives of the soldiers are also important,” Yulia Fedosyuk told the Associated Press in Rome.
In his nightly video address on Saturday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky turned to Russian to urge Russian forces not to fight in Ukraine, saying that their generals expect thousands more of them to die.
The president accused Moscow of recruiting new soldiers “with little motivation and little combat experience” so that units destroyed early in the war could be brought back into battle.
“Every Russian soldier can still save his life,” Zelensky said. “It is better for you to survive in Russia than to die on our land.”
In other developments:
– Ukrainian Deputy Agriculture Minister Taras Vysotsky said in televised statements that Russian forces confiscated hundreds of thousands of tons of grain in the territories under their control. Ukraine is a major producer of grain, and the invasion has driven up world prices and raised concerns about shortages.
– Ukraine’s military said a Russian missile attack destroyed the runway of the airport in Odessa, Ukraine’s third most populous city and a major port on the Black Sea.
Getting a full picture of the ongoing battle in eastern Ukraine was difficult because air strikes and artillery shelling made the movement of journalists so dangerous. Also, both Ukraine and Moscow-backed rebels have imposed severe restrictions on coverage from the combat zone.
But Western military analysts noted that the offensive in the Donbass region, which includes Mariupol, was much slower than planned. So far, it appears that Russian forces and the separatists have made only slight gains in the month since Moscow said it would concentrate its military power in the east.
Numerically, Russia’s military manpower greatly exceeds the workforce in Ukraine. In the days before the war, Western intelligence estimated that Russia was stationed near the border with as many as 190,000 soldiers. The number of permanent military forces of Ukraine is about 200,000, spread throughout the country.
With plenty of firepower still in reserve, the Russian offensive could still intensify and bypass the Ukrainians. Altogether, the Russian army has about 900,000 personnel on active duty. Russia also has a much larger air and sea power.
Hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid have flowed into Ukraine since the war began, but Russia’s massive warehouses mean Ukraine will continue to demand huge amounts of support.
Fish reported from Sloviansk. Associated Press reporters John Gambrel and Juras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstislav Chernov in Kharkiv, Lolita C. Baldur in Washington, Trisha Thompson in Rome, and Associated Press staff around the world contributed to this report.
Follow the Associated Press’ coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
“Amateur organizer. Wannabe beer evangelist. General web fan. Certified internet ninja. Avid reader.”