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Ukraine confirms that Russian assault on Azovstal steel plant continues

The Kremlin assures that the order to not attack the plant where at least a thousand people are sheltering remains in place
Acería Azovstal

AYUNTAMIENTO DE MARIUPOL/vía REUTERS  -   Smoke rises above the Azovstal steel factory in Mariupol, Ukraine, in this still image from a recent drone video posted on social media

Russian troops continue for the third consecutive day with the assault on the Azovstal steelworks in the port city of Mariupol, reported today both the Azov Regiment, which defends the steelworks, and Ukrainian police sources. " There have been three days of active assault on the Azovstal plant site," said the battalion's deputy commander, Svyatoslav Palamar, who added that there is fighting and "no regime of silence", i.e. no ceasefire.  

In statements to the Hromadske digital channel reported by the Unian agency, Palamar added that civilians are not being evacuated from the plant. He also denied accusations by Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman that Ukrainian fighters are allegedly holding civilians hostage and demanding to exchange them for food and medicine. 

The head of the Mariupol patrol police, Mikhail Vershinin, also confirmed to Unian that the assault is continuing. "They are attacking the perimeter as much as they can and trying to advance," he said.  

Oleksiy Arekovych
PHOTO/PRESIDENCIA DE UCRANIA  -   Oleksiy Arestovych, Adviser to the Ukrainian Presidency

Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said on television that heavy fighting was continuing, but that Ukrainian defenders had managed to drive the Russians out of the compound. "Yesterday Russian troops entered the Azovstal compound, but they were driven out by our defenders. Now we are recapitulating the information," Arestovich was quoted as saying by Unian.  

The media yesterday published reports about the advance of Russian troops in Azovstal which, according to Arestovych, need to be clarified. A 6 p.m. General Staff summary stated that Russian troops were unsuccessfully trying to destroy Ukrainian units in the Azovstal area. 

Kremlin insists that the order not to storm Azovstal still stands 

Russian forces are still complying with President Vladimir Putin's order not to storm the Azovstal steel plant, the last Ukrainian resistance stronghold in Mariupol, the Kremlin said on Thursday. "The Ukrainian side, especially those who take refuge on the territory of the (Azovstal) plant, are well known for continuously producing a lot of lies and falsifications. Therefore, the information coming from them must be filtered out in the most thorough manner," said Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov. 

Peskov commented during his daily press briefing on Kiev's reports of Russian troops entering the territory of the steelworks and heavy fighting in Azovstal.  

The Kremlin representative insisted that the order to suspend the assault on the steelworks still stands, but stressed that its blockade is continuing. "At the same time, corridors for the exit of civilians will operate these days," Peskov said.  

Russia's Defence Ministry on Wednesday promised to open today and on 6 and 7 May humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of all civilians in Azovstal in the direction of "their choice", referring to areas controlled by Russian forces or the Kiev government.

Dimitri Peskov
AFP/ NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA  -   In this file photo taken on Dec. 17, 2020, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov sits in front of a screen showing Russian President Vladimir Putin

During the press conference, Peskov also commented on media reports of the US handing over to Ukraine intelligence on the movement of Russian troops, which has allegedly led to the assassination of several generals. "Our military is well aware that the United States, the United Kingdom and NATO as a whole constantly transmit intelligence and other information to the Ukrainian armed forces," Peskov said. 

At the same time, he added that this will not prevent "the objectives of the Russian special military operation in Ukraine from being fulfilled".