Russian forces break into Azovstal metallurgical plant in Mariupol

Ukraine says it is 'ready' if Belarus joins Russian war effort * 21 civilians killed in Donetsk, 27 injured * Russia denies declaration of war on May 9 commemorations.

 A view shows a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol. (photo credit: REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO)
A view shows a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol.
(photo credit: REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO)

Russian forces break into Azovstal

Heavy fighting resumed for the territory of the Azovstal metallurgical plant in Mariupol, Russian forces fired on the positions of the Ukrainian army using artillery, aircraft, tanks and ships, said Mayor Vadym Boychenko.

"Today, heavy fighting continues on the territory of our fortress - Azovstal. Our brave guys are defending this fortress, but it is very difficult, because they work on this fortress with heavy artillery, work with tanks, aircraft, ships approached and also extinguish on this fortress." - Boychenko said during a national telethon on Wednesday.

Russian forces have entered the territory of Mariupol's Azovstal plant, Ukraine's ruling parliamentary faction head David Arakhamia said in a Wednesday evening comment to RFE/RL.

"Attempts to storm the plant continue for the second day. Russian troops are already on the territory of Azovstal," RFE/RL quoted Arakhamia as saying, adding that as of Wednesday evening contact remained between Ukraine's government and the Ukrainian fighters in the plant.

At the same time, according to Boychenko, there are still hundreds of civilians on the territory of the plant, more than 30 of whom are children, they have been in the plant's storage facilities since the beginning of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday asked United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for help saving people trapped in the Azovstal steel works in Mariupol, Zelensky's office said in a statement.

Will Russia declare war

The Kremlin on Wednesday dismissed speculation that President Vladimir Putin planned to declare war against Ukraine and declare a national mobilization on May 9 when Russia commemorates the Soviet Union's victory in World War Two.

Commenting on speculation that Putin will declare war against Ukraine on May 9, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "There is no chance of that. It's nonsense."

Putin is set to deliver a speech on May 9 and oversee a military parade on Moscow's Red Square.

Kyiv will be ready if Belarus's armed forces join Russia's war effort in Ukraine, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian State Border Service said on Wednesday.

Belarus, a close ally of Russia, said its military had begun large-scale drills on Wednesday to test their combat readiness and that they posed no threat to its neighbors.

"We do not rule out that the Russian Federation could at some point use the territory of Belarus, the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus, against Ukraine," said Andriy Demchenko, spokesperson for Ukraine's State Border Service.

"Therefore, we are ready," he said, adding that the border with Belarus had been strengthened since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

First use of Russian submarines

A Russian submarine in the Black Sea had fired two Kalibr cruise missiles at targets in Ukraine, Russia's defense ministry said on Wednesday.

"The crew of the Black Sea Fleet submarine-launched two Kalibr cruise missiles from the Black Sea at designated ground targets in the territory of Ukraine," it said.

Russia first reported using submarine strikes against the Ukrainian target late last month.

Russia has deployed 22 battalion tactical groups near Izium in its attempt to advance along the northern axis of Donbas, according to UK military intelligence on Wednesday. They also reported that Russia is likely to proceed beyond Izium to capture the Ukrainian cities Kramaforsk and Severodonefsk.

Russia's defense ministry said on Wednesday that it had disabled six railway stations in Ukraine that used to supply Ukrainian forces with foreign weapons.

The ministry also said it had hit 40 Ukrainian military targets, including four ammunition depots.

The same day, the ministry said that it had disabled six railway stations in Ukraine that used to supply Ukrainian forces with Western-made weapons in the country's east.

The ministry said it disabled the railway stations by bombing their power supplies using high-precision air and sea-based weapons. It did not say which Western-made weapons were supplied to Ukrainian forces via those stations.

Another statement by the ministry said that Ukrainian fighters in the industrial zone of the Azovstal plant are blocked, Interfax reported. 

Two electrical substations were damaged by missile attacks in Lviv Tuesday night, according to a Telegram post by Mayor Andriy Sadovy

Ukrainian Railways said that Russia's attack on the substations, which are part of the railway infrastructure, would cause delays for Lviv-bound trains, according to Ukrainian media. Oleksandr Kamyshin, head of Ukrainian railways, said Russian forces struck six stations in the center and west of the country. There were no injuries among rail workers or passengers, he said on Twitter.

 A man stands on the balcony of his apartment after a missile strike damaged a residential building, amid Russia's invasion, in Dobropillia, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, April 30, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/JORGE SILVA) A man stands on the balcony of his apartment after a missile strike damaged a residential building, amid Russia's invasion, in Dobropillia, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, April 30, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/JORGE SILVA)

Earlier on Tuesday, Russian attacks in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region killed 21 civilians and injured 27, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said in an online post.

Kyrylenko said the figure, which included 10 dead at a coking plant in the town of Avdiivka reported earlier, was the highest daily death toll in the region since an assault last month on a railway station in the town of Kramatorsk. More than 50 people died in that attack.

Evacuations

A convoy of buses left Mariupol on Wednesday in a new attempt by Ukraine, the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross to evacuate civilians from the southern Ukrainian city, the regional governor said.

The convoy was heading for the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said.

He did not say how many buses were in the convoy or whether any more civilians had been evacuated from a vast steelworks in Mariupol where the city's last defenders are holding out against Russian forces that have occupied Mariupol.

Dozens of evacuees who took refuge for weeks in the bunkers of the Azovstal steelworks reached the safety of Zaporizhzhia on Tuesday, but aid workers said many still remained trapped in the port city.

"The buses have already left Mariupol," Kyrylenko said on the Telegram messaging app. "Pass the information to those who need it!"

The sprawling Azovstal industrial complex and its bunkers and tunnels became a refuge for both civilians and Ukrainian fighters as Moscow laid siege to Mariupol, a strategic city on the Sea of Azov.

Mariupol's mayor said on Tuesday that more than 200 civilians remained in the Azovstal plant, with a total of 100,000 civilians still in the city that has been devastated by weeks of Russian siege and shelling.

Grain exports fall

Ukraine's grain exports fall to around 923,000 tonnes in April from 2.8 million tonnes in the same month in 2021 due to the Russian invasion, analyst APK-Inform said on Wednesday.

The consultancy said in a report the country's exports included 768,486 tonnes of corn and 127,130 tonnes of wheat. Ukraine also exported 151,529 tonnes of sunflower oil and 169,681 tonnes of oilseeds, mostly sunseed.