Russian forces pummel Ukrainian fighters holed up in Mariupol steel plant - mayoral aide

·1 min read
FILE PHOTO: Smoke rises above a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol

(Reuters) - Russian forces were on Wednesday pounding a huge steel works in Mariupol where the southern Ukrainian city's last defenders and some civilians are holed up, a local official said.

Petro Andryushchenko, an aide to the city mayor, said there had been no let-up in air strikes on the Azovstal plant despite Russian President Vladimir Putin saying there was no need to storm it after declaring victory in Mariupol.

"Air attacks on Azovstal are not subsiding. No ceasefire, but attempts to storm again and again. Despite the statements (by Putin)," Andryushchenko wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

"At the same time, street fighting continues again in the sector between the Azovstal plant's management (buildings) to the street."

Local officials say much of Mariupol has been destroyed in weeks of Russian bombardment and siege since Russian forces invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, and that about 100,000 civilians are still in the city. Hundred of fighters and civilians are believed to still be in the vast steel works.

Ukrainian officials have described the situation in Mariupol, a strategic port on the Sea of Azov, as a "humanitarian catastrophe".

Andryushchenko said no agreements had been reached on trying to evacuate civilians from Mariupol on Wednesday. Many previous efforts to arrange a ceasefire to allow residents to leave the city have broken down.

Russia denies targeting civilians in its "special military operation" in Ukraine and each side blames the other for the repeated failure to establish humanitarian corridors.

On Monday, Russia announced plans to open a humanitarian corridor for civilians to leave the Azovstal plant but Kyiv denied reaching any agreement on this with Russia.

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets and Max Hunder, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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