Ukraine accuses Russia of resuming attack on Azovstal, Moscow denies
Updated 22:22, 05-May-2022
In this photo taken from video, smoke rises from Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, May 3, 2022. /CFP

In this photo taken from video, smoke rises from Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, May 3, 2022. /CFP

Ukraine said on Thursday that Russia was "trying to destroy" its remaining soldiers holed up in the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. Moscow denied the claim.

Kyiv's remaining forces in the southern port city of Mariupol said Russian forces had broken into the giant factory.

"Russian occupiers are focusing on blocking and trying to destroy Ukrainian units in the Azovstal area," the Ukrainian army said in a statement.

"With the support of aircraft, Russia resumed the offensive in order to take control of the plant."

Asked if the claim was true, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov referred reporters to President Vladimir Putin's previous order not to storm it.

Putin was shown on television on April 21 telling his defense minister instead to seal off the vast complex so "a fly can't pass through."

"You were witnesses, the president gave the order to refrain from an assault. No other orders were announced and the (humanitarian) corridors are working today," Peskov said.

On Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for a prolonged ceasefire to evacuate civilians including women and children from bunkers under the Azovstal steel plant.

Russia's military said it would pause military activity at the steel works during daytime on Thursday and the following two days to allow civilians to leave.

More than 300 civilians have been evacuated from Mariupol and other areas in southern Ukraine as part of a joint U.N.-Red Cross operation, the United Nations said.

Mariupol is believed to be an important target in Russia's efforts to cut Ukraine off from its Black Sea grain and metals export routes, as well as to link Russian-controlled territory in the east of the country to Crimea, which Moscow took over in 2014.

Since February 24 when Russia launched a "special military operation," the United States and its European allies have imposed massive sanctions on it while sending billions of dollars worth of military aid to Ukraine.

In response to a New York Times report that the U.S. had provided intelligence that helped Ukrainian forces kill a dozen Russian generals, Peskov said this would not stop Russia from achieving its military objectives in Ukraine.

"Our military is well aware that the United States, Britain and NATO as a whole are constantly transmitting intelligence and other parameters to the Ukrainian armed forces," the Kremlin spokesman told reporters.

He said neither this nor the supply of Western weapons "contribute to the quick completion of the (Russian) operation, but at the same time are not capable of hindering the achievement of the goals set."

Russia has accused the West of waging a proxy war against it by arming Ukraine.

The United States has provided details on the location of Russia's mobile military headquarters, allowing Ukrainian forces to strike those targets and kill Russian generals, the New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing senior U.S. officials.

Ukrainian officials said they had killed about 12 Russian generals on the battlefield, the newspaper reported.

The Pentagon and the White House did not immediately comment on the report.

(With input from Reuters)

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