Russia renews Mariupol attack, missiles hit Odesa

The Ukrainian-controlled cities in the eastern region of Luhansk were constantly shelled on Saturday by Russian forces.

 Firefighters walk next to a damaged five-storey building after shelling in the city of Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk region, Ukraine, in this handout photo released on March 28, 2022. (photo credit: State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS)
Firefighters walk next to a damaged five-storey building after shelling in the city of Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk region, Ukraine, in this handout photo released on March 28, 2022.
(photo credit: State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS)

Russia resumed its assault on the last Ukrainian defenders holed up in a giant steelworks in Mariupol on Saturday, days after Moscow declared victory in the southern city and said its forces did not need to take the plant.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the country's army was not ready to try to break through the siege of the port city. But he said America's top diplomat, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin would visit Kyiv on Sunday and discuss the types of weapons Ukraine needs to battle the Russian invasion.

"As soon as we have (more weapons), as soon as there are enough of them, believe me, we will immediately retake this or that territory, which is temporarily occupied," Zelensky told an evening news conference in the Kyiv metro.

US President Joe Biden's administration has not confirmed any travel plans for Blinken and Austin. The State Department and Pentagon declined to comment.

The attack on Mariupol, the biggest battle of the conflict, has raged for weeks as Russia seeks to capture a city seen as vital to its attempts to link the eastern Donbas region with Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula Moscow seized in 2014.

 A tank of pro-Russian troops drives along a road near burnt-out residential buildings in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 5, 2022. (credit: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters) A tank of pro-Russian troops drives along a road near burnt-out residential buildings in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 5, 2022. (credit: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Moscow-backed separatists have held territory in the Donbas region for years.

In the Black Sea port city of Odesa, at least eight people were killed, Zelensky said. Two missiles struck a military facility and two residential buildings and two more were destroyed on Saturday, the Ukrainian armed forces said.

The death toll could not be independently verified. The last big strike on or near Odesa was in early April.

'MISSILE TERROR'

Zelensky said Russia had already fired most of its missile arsenal at Ukraine.

"Of course, they still have missiles left. Of course, they can still continue the missile terror against our people," he said in a video address later on Saturday.

"But what they have already done is a powerful enough argument for the world to finally recognize Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism and the Russian army as a terrorist organization," he said.

Russia has denied targeting civilians in its "special military operation" that began on Feb. 24.

The Russian defense ministry said it used high-precision missiles to destroy a logistics terminal in Odesa containing weapons supplied by the United States and European nations.

It also said Russian forces had killed up to 200 Ukrainian troops and destroyed more than 30 vehicles on Saturday.

Russian General Rustam Minnekayev on Friday said Moscow wanted control of the whole of southern Ukraine, comments Ukraine said indicated Russia had wider goals than its declared aim of demilitarizing and "denazifying" the country. Kyiv and the West call the invasion an unjustified war of aggression.

Russian forces have besieged and bombarded Mariupol for weeks, leaving in ruins a city usually home to more than 400,000 people. A new attempt to evacuate civilians failed on Saturday, an aide to Mariupol's mayor said.

Russia's defense ministry on Friday said Mariupol's last fighters had been "securely blockaded" at the steel plant. On Thursday, President Vladimir Putin had declared the city "liberated," declaring that troops would not storm Azovstal.

Oleksiy Arestovych, a political adviser to Zelensky, said Ukrainian troops in the steel complex were holding out and attempting counterattacks. More than 1,000 civilians are also in the plant, according to Ukrainian authorities.

'I WANT TO SEE THE SUN'

The Azov battalion, a nationalist militia prominent in the defense of Mariupol, released a video it said showed women and children sheltering in the complex. Reuters could not independently verify where or when the video was shot.

One woman holding a young child said food was running out, while an unnamed boy in the video said he was desperate to get out after two months in the bunker.

"I want to see the sun because in here it's dim, not like outside. When our houses are rebuilt we can live in peace. Let Ukraine win because Ukraine is our native home," he said.

Ukraine estimates tens of thousands of civilians have been killed in Mariupol and says 100,000 civilians are still there. The United Nations and Red Cross say the civilian toll is at least in the thousands.

Russia's current offensive is focused on the Donbas, which includes the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said Ukrainian forces were pulling back to preserve their units in the face of an intensifying barrage on all cities in the region.

Ukrainian forces fighting in Luhansk and Donetsk said in a Facebook post they had repelled 12 Russian attacks on Saturday, destroying four tanks and 16 other armored vehicles as well as five artillery systems.

Reuters could not independently verify that statement.

Three people were killed and seven were wounded by Russian shelling in the eastern region of Kharkiv on Saturday, the region's governor said.

The governor of a Russian border region said on Saturday that Ukraine had shelled a crossing point on Russia's territory, causing a fire but no casualties. It was not immediately possible to confirm details or assess responsibility.

Russia said it had shot down a Ukrainian fighter jet and destroyed three Ukrainian helicopters at an airfield in Kharkiv.

There was no immediate comment from Ukraine on the Russian assertion. The Ukrainian military said on Saturday it had destroyed 177 Russian aircraft and 154 helicopters since the start of the war. Reuters could not verify the figures.

At least five people were killed and 18 injured in a missile strike on Ukraine's southern port city of Odesa on Saturday, the president's chief of staff Andriy Yermak said in an online post.

Ukraine's southern air command had earlier said that two missiles struck a military facility and two residential buildings in Odesa.

Russia used high precision missiles on Saturday to destroy a logistics terminal in Odesa where a large number of weapons supplied by the United States and European nations were being stored, the defense ministry said.

In an online post, it also said Russian forces had on Saturday killed up to 200 Ukrainian troops and destroyed more than 30 vehicles, some of them armored.

Russian forces have resumed airstrikes on and are trying to storm the Azovstal steelworks where Ukraine's remaining forces in Mariupol are holding out, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said on Saturday.

"The enemy is trying to strangle the final resistance of the defenders of Mariupol in the Azovstal area," Arestovych said on national television.

In addition, all the Ukrainian-controlled cities in the eastern region of Luhansk were constantly being shelled by Russian forces and the barrage was intensifying, the region's governor Serhiy Haidai said on television.

Ukrainian forces were leaving some settlements there in order to regroup, he said, but that the move did not amount to a critical setback. Russia denies targeting civilian areas.

Russia's defense ministry said that its forces shot down a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet and destroyed three MI-8 helicopters at an airfield in Ukraine's Kharkiv region.

There was no immediate reaction from Ukraine regarding the Russian claims.

Three people were killed and seven were wounded by Russian shelling in the eastern Ukrainian region of Kharkiv on Saturday, the region's governor said.

Ukrainian authorities said earlier on Saturday that shelling had killed two civilians in a frontline town in the Luhansk region, and that a missile strike killed six people in the southern port city of Odesa. Moscow denies its forces target civilians.

An artillery strike on the front line town of Zolote in Ukraine's eastern Luhansk region killed two civilians on Saturday and wounded two others, Governor Serhiy Haidai said in an online post.

A new attempt to evacuate Ukrainian civilians from war-torn Mariupol failed on Saturday, an aide to the city's mayor said on his Telegram channel, blaming Russian forces.

The official said 200 residents of Mariupol had gathered to be evacuated, but that the Russian military told them to disperse and warned of possible shelling.

Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for repeated failures to evacuate people from Mariupol.

The governor of a Russian border region said on Saturday that Ukraine had shelled a crossing point on Russia's territory, causing a fire but no casualties.

An office of the Russian agriculture watchdog, Rosselkhoznadzor, caught fire after shelling, the governor of the Kursk region, Roman Starovoit, said on his Telegram account.

208 CHILDREN KILLED SINCE WAR BEGAN

At least 208 children have been killed and 387 injured since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office said on Saturday morning.

The real number is probably higher since the current tally does not include areas that are occupied by Russians or where fighting is still ongoing, the office added. 

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Saturday that if all goes as planned, evacuations from the besieged city of Mariupol would start at noon.

"Today, we again will be trying to evacuate women, children and the elderly," Vereshchuk wrote in a social media post.

EVACUATIONS

About 3 million people left Ukraine for Poland since the start of the invasion, Pravda reported on Saturday.