Russian forces launched artillery fire against towns in eastern Ukraine, killing and injuring many civilians. They then stormed the Mariupol steel mill, where scores were evacuated.
According to the governor of eastern Donetsk, Russian terrorists killed 21 people on Tuesday. This is the highest death toll since April 8, when a missile strike on the Kramatorsk railway station left at least 59 dead.
The European Union leader called for the 27-nation bloc on Wednesday to ban Russian oil imports as a new round of sanctions, adding pressure on Moscow.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, stated in Brussels that she would ensure that Russian oil is phased out in a systematic manner that allows for alternative supply routes. This will allow us and our partners to minimize the impact on global markets. Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, was also suggested to be disconnected from SWIFT's international banking payment system.
Osnat Lubrani (the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Ukraine) said that 101 people, including elderly women and 17 children aged 6 months, were able to escape from the bunkers below Mariupol's Azovstal steelworks.
Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minster, stated Wednesday that authorities plan to continue efforts in order to evacuate civilians from Mariupol (and nearby areas) if security conditions allow it. Lubrani expressed the hope of further evacuations, but stated that none have been arranged.
One evacuee claimed that she used to go to bed at the plant every night, afraid she would not wake up.
Elina Tsybulchenko, 54, said that it was frightening to sit in a bomb shelter in a damp basement. She also described the shaking and bouncing of the basement.
She stated that if the shelter was hit with a bomb similar to the one she saw when she ventured out, all of us would be dead.
Some of the evacuees were crying and made their way to a tent that provided food, diapers, and other necessities. Some of the evacuees browsed through racks of donated clothing including new underwear.
For those who were left behind, the news was even worse. According to Ukrainian commanders, Russian tanks backed by tanks stormed the sprawling plant that includes a maze tunnels and bunkers covering over 11 kilometers (4 miles).
Although it was not clear how many Ukrainian fighters were still inside the building, the Russians have put the figure at around 2,000 over recent weeks. 500 people were also reported to be injured. According to Iryna Vereshchuk, a few hundred civilians remained inside.
"We'll do all we can to repel the attack, but it's urgent that we take immediate measures to evacuate civilians still inside the plant and bring them out safely," Sviatoslav Palmar, deputy commander of Ukraine’s Azov Regiment stated via Telegram.
He said that the plant was also hit with airstrikes and naval artillery fire throughout the night. He said that two civilian women died and that 10 were injured.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian President, stated in his nightly video address that Russian forces broke agreements regarding safe evacuations by storming the steel plant. Although the previous evacuations were not a victory, he said that they are already a result. There's still hope to save others, I believe.
Donetsk Gov. said that 10 people were killed at a chemical plant located in Avdiivka on Tuesday. Pavlo Kyrylenko stated.
He wrote that the Russians knew exactly where they wanted to target -- workers had just finished their shift, and were waiting at a bus stop for them to return home. "Another cynical offense by Russians on Our Land."
Two civilians were also killed and two more injured in overnight shelling in the Luhansk region. Serhiy Haidai stated that Russian attacks were increasing.
The Russian Defense Ministry reported Wednesday that Russia deployed 22 tactical units in the area north of Izyum, a strategic junction city. This was to help it advance along the northern axis, which is the Donbas. Each unit usually has 700 soldiers.
According to the British assessment Russia is likely to move beyond Izyum to seize the cities Kramatorsk (and Severodonetsk) and surround the Ukrainian troops in Kharkiv. Moscow's push against Russia has been slow, as Ukrainian fighters have retreated and used long-range weapons like howitzers to attack the Russians.
According to the U.S., Ukrainians have been pushing Russian forces eastwards of Kharkiv (the country's second largest city), in recent days. Russia will have a harder time hitting the city with artillery fire because the front line is now farther away. According to Ukrainian authorities, their forces have retaken control of at most 11 villages around Kharkiv in the last week. Most of these villages had been occupied for more than two years by the Russians.
After failing to seize Kyiv in the first weeks of war, Moscow still has the stated goal of capturing Ukraine's eastern industrial center of Donbas. This includes Donetsk as well as Luhansk.
In Lviv, a city in western Ukraine near the Polish border, explosions were also heard. According to the mayor, the strikes caused damage to three power substations and knocked out some electricity supply. Two people were also hurt. Lviv was a refuge for refugees fleeing eastward fighting and has served as a gateway to NATO-supplied weapons.
Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, spokesperson for the Russian Defense Ministry, stated that Russian aircraft and artillery had hit hundreds of targets over the past day. These included troop strongholds and command posts, artillery positions and fuel and ammunition depots as well as radar equipment and radar equipment.
According to Ukrainian authorities, the Russians attacked at most a dozen railway stations in the country.
Two weeks ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin directed his military to not storm the Azovstal steelworks to kill the defenders. Instead, he ordered them to stop it. The U.N. and Red Cross supervised the evacuation of the first and only civilians from the demolished plant.
Some elderly evacuees looked exhausted when they arrived. Many of the older people, particularly mothers, who were comforting their babies and other children, seemed relieved.
"I'm very happy to be on Ukrainian soil," declared a woman who only gave her first name Anna and arrived in Kiev with two of her children, ages one and nine. "We believed we wouldn't be able to get out of there, honestly speaking."
A small group of women raised signs in English asking for fighters to be evacuated from Steel Plant.
Lubrani stated that in addition to 101 people who were evacuated from the steelworks', 58 others joined the convoy in a nearby town. Lubrani stated that about 30 people who fled the plant chose to remain in Mariupol to search for their loved ones. She said that 127 people were evacuees who arrived in Zaporizhzhia.
According to the Russian military, some of the evacuees opted to remain in areas controlled by pro-Moscow separatists.
Tsybulchenko denied Russian claims that Ukrainian fighters would not allow civilians to leave the facility. She claimed that the Ukrainian military had told civilians they could leave, but they would have to risk their lives if they did.
She stated, "We knew that we would not survive under these murder weapons. We wouldn't be able to go anywhere."
Mariupol is now a symbol of the human misery caused by war. Two-month Russian siege on the strategically important southern port left civilians without food, water or heat. Moscow's forces then razed the city to ashes. This plant has been a major attraction to the outside world.
The fall of Mariupol would leave Ukraine without a crucial port. It would also allow Russia to create a land corridor to Crimea Peninsula, which it took from Ukraine in 2014. This would free up troops to fight elsewhere in the Donbas.