Russian forces storming Ukraine's Azovstal plant where civilians trapped
Russian forces have started to storm the Azovstal steel plant, the last pocket of resistance, in Ukraine's Mariupol, said Ukrainian defenders on Tuesday. The latest development comes almost two weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his military not to storm the plant, but rather block it off.
The deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, which is holed up in the Azovstal steel plant, confirmed news agency AP that Russian forces have started to storm the plant. Some civilians have already escaped the plant over the weekend in an UN-assisted evacuation effort.
News agency Reuters reported that some 200 civilians were trapped underground despite an UN-brokered evacuation.
Russian rockets pounded other parts of eastern and southern Ukraine and targeted dumps of advanced Western military hardware, and Britain said Ukraine's Western-backed government would defeat Russia's invasion and secure its freedom.
The attack began after Russian aircraft bombed the site overnight, a deputy commander of the Azov regiment in the steel works told Ukraine's Pravda news outlet.
Russia's defence ministry said Ukrainian forces had used a ceasefire to establish new firing positions, and that Russia-backed forces were now "beginning to destroy" those positions, Reuters added.
Reuters images showed volleys of rockets fired from a Russian truck-mounted launcher towards Azovstal, a sprawling Soviet-era steel works, on Monday.
The fighting followed a ceasefire around the complex that allowed several groups of civilians to escape Mariupol's last holdout of Ukrainian fighters in recent days.
(With inputs from agencies)
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