Fighters at Mariupol Plant Are Refusing to Surrender

Russia has stepped up assault as 'Victory Day' holiday approaches
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 6, 2022 12:06 PM CDT
Mariupol Attack Stepped Up as 'Victory Day' Approaches
Municipal workers attach a Russian national flag to a pole In Mariupol, Thursday, May 5, 2022.   (AP Photo)

Ukrainian fighters battling Russian forces in the tunnels beneath Mariupol’s immense steel plant refused to surrender in the face of relentless attacks, with the wife of one commander saying they had vowed to "stand till the end." The fight in the last Ukrainian stronghold of the strategic port city reduced to ruins by the Russian onslaught appeared increasingly desperate amid growing speculation that Vladimir Putin wants to present the Russian people with a battlefield triumph—or announce an escalation of the war—in time for Victory Day on Monday, the biggest patriotic holiday on the Russian calendar, the AP reports.

Some 2,000 Ukrainian fighters, by Russia’s most recent estimate, are holed up in a maze of tunnels and bunkers beneath Azovstal steelworks. A few hundred civilians are also believed to be trapped there. The Ukrainian military said Friday the Russians, with aviation support, had resumed assault operations to take control of the sprawling plant. There are many wounded (fighters), but they are not surrendering," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly video address Thursday. "They are holding their positions." Zelensky added: "Just imagine this hell! And there are children there. More than two months of constant shelling, bombing, constant death."

The Russians managed to get inside the plant Wednesday with the help of an electrician who knew the layout, said Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Internal Affairs Ministry. "He showed them the underground tunnels which are leading to the factory." More than 100 civilians were rescued from the steelworks last weekend, but Ukrainian forces accused the Russians of opening fire during another attempt to evacuate civilians Friday, the BBC reports. In an intelligence update Friday, Britain's defense ministry said Russia has stepped up the offensive because of "Putin’s desire to have a symbolic success in Ukraine" by Monday.

(Read more Mariupol stories.)

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