A top US official warned that Russia wants to take much of eastern Ukraine later this month, while the Mariupol steel mill, the city’s final bastion of resistance, came under fresh attack a day after the initial evacuation of residents from the factory.
The US anticipates the Kremlin would recognize the southern city of Kherson as an independent republic, according to Michael Carpenter, the US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Neither action would be accepted by the US or its allies, he added.
According to Carpenter, Russia intends to stage bogus referendums in the Donetsk and Luhansk areas in order to “give a veneer of democratic or electoral legitimacy” to the entities and bind them to Russia. He also said that there were indicators that Russia was planning to stage an independence referendum in Kherson.
Mayors and local lawmakers have been kidnapped, internet and telephone service has been cut off, and a Russian school curriculum is set to be implemented shortly, according to Carpenter. Russia’s ruble has been established as a currency in Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian authorities.
More than a hundred people, including old ladies and mothers with young children, fled Mariupol’s rubble-strewn Azovstal steelworks on Sunday and boarded buses and ambulances bound for the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia, approximately 140 miles (230 kilometers) northwest. The refugees were making poor progress, according to Mariupol Deputy Mayor Sergei Orlov.
The delay was not explained by the authorities.
At least some of the residents were reportedly transferred to a hamlet run by rebels supported by Russia. Some opted to remain in separatist territories, while dozens fled to Ukrainian-controlled territory, according to the Russian military.
Ukraine has previously accused Russian forces of abducting individuals and transporting them to Russia or Russian-controlled territories against their will. It has been disputed by the Kremlin.
After the partial evacuation, the Russian assault on the huge complex by air, tank, and ship began, according to Ukraine’s Azov Battalion, which is assisting in the defense of the mill.
Orlov claimed that high-level talks between Ukraine, Russia, and international organizations were taking place about evacuating more people.
If successful, the steel-plant evacuation would be a rare step forward in reducing the human toll of the almost 10-week battle, which has wreaked havoc in Mariupol. Attempts to create safe passages out of the southern port city and other locations have failed in the past, with Ukrainian officials accusing Russian forces of shelling and firing along agreed-upon evacuation routes.
Approximately 1,000 people were reported to remain at the facility before the weekend evacuation, which was monitored by the UN and the Red Cross, as well as an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian defenders who had rebuffed Russian requests to surrender.
Mariupol, which had a prewar population of more than 400,000 people, might have as many as 100,000 people still living there. Much of the city has been razed by Russian forces, trapping residents without food, water, heat, or medication.
Some Mariupol residents drove away on their own, frequently in damaged personal vehicles.
Yaroslav Dmytryshyn, a Mariupol local, drove up to a Zaporizhzhia reception center in a car with a rear seat full of children and two signs pinned on the back window: “Children” and “Little ones.”
“I can’t believe we made it,” he exclaimed, his face tired but upbeat after two days on the road.
“There is no Mariupol at all,” he declared. “It will cost millions of tons of gold to reconstruct it,” says the narrator. They resided directly across the train lines from the steel mill, he added. “It’s been ruined,” he added. “The factory has entirely vanished.”
Anastasiia Dembytska, who left with her daughter, nephew, and dog during the cease-fire, claimed she could see the steelworks from her window if she dared to look.
She claimed, “We could see the rockets soaring” and clouds of smoke rising from the factory.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Greek state television that the steel plant’s surviving inhabitants were frightened to board buses for fear of being deported to Russia. He said that the United Nations promised him that they would be able to enter areas under his government’s authority.
Mariupol is located in the Donbas, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, and is an important part of Russia’s eastern campaign. Its annexation would deprive Ukraine of a key port, enabling Russia to construct a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014, and free up soldiers for further battles.
According to Russia’s state-owned news agency TASS, more than 1 million individuals, including around 200,000 children, have been deported from Ukraine to Russia.
In the preceding 24 hours, 11,550 persons, including 1,847 children, were killed “without the assistance of Ukrainian authorities,” according to Defense Ministry spokesman Mikhail Mizintsev.
According to the report, those residents “were evacuated to Russian Federation territory from the hazardous regions of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics,” as well as other parts of Ukraine. There were no specifics supplied.
According to Zelenskyy, the Russian army has murdered at least 220 Ukrainian children since the war began, and 1,570 educational facilities have been demolished or damaged.
After failing to take Kyiv, Russia’s capital, President Vladimir Putin turned his attention to the Donbas, where Moscow-backed rebels have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014.
Russia claimed responsibility for strikes on dozens of military targets in the region, including personnel and weapon concentrations and an ammo dump at Chervone in the Zaporizhzhia district, west of the Donbas.
Russian soldiers, according to Ukrainian and Western sources, are firing indiscriminately, killing numerous people while making poor progress.
Maksym Marchenko, the governor of the Black Sea Coast district of Odesa, reported on Telegram that a Russian missile attack on Monday killed and injured people. He did not provide any other information. The attack, according to Zelenskyy, damaged a dormitory and killed a 14-year-old child.
Russia also hit a major road and rail bridge west of Odesa, according to Ukraine. Previous Russian bombings had severely damaged the bridge, and its demolition would cut off a supply channel for guns and other supplies from Romania.
The bridge was still standing as of midday Monday, according to a satellite image acquired by Planet Labs PBC and examined by The Associated Press.
Another photo shot on Monday shows approximately 50 Russian military helicopters at Stary Oskol, a Russian facility near the Ukrainian border around 175 kilometers (110 miles) northeast of Kharkiv, Ukraine.
With military equipment nearby, the helicopters were stationed on the tarmac, runway, and grass of the normally civilian airport.
Russia has been flying military assault helicopters low to the ground in the Ukraine conflict to dodge anti-aircraft missiles.