An advisor to Ukraine's presidential offices reported that the assault took place as 1,000 civilians were sheltering in the Azovstal plant with the remaining Ukrainian fighters. While the Russian forces continued their offensive elsewhere in eastern Donbas, amid fierce Ukrainian counterattacks.
During a briefing, Oleksiy Arastovich, the presidential advisor, stated that Russian forces had resumed strikes against the seaside plant and were trying storm it. This would be a reverse of an order Russian President Vladimir Putin issued two days prior.
On Thursday, Sergei Shoigu, the Russian Defense Minister, reported to Putin that all of Mariupol was "liberated" from the Russians. Putin told him to stop sending Russian troops to the plant, but to instead block it, in an apparent attempt to starve the Ukrainians and force their surrender.
According to Ukrainian officials, about 2,000 troops and civilians are believed to be inside the plant. Arestovic stated that the Ukrainian forces were trying counter the new attacks.
The Azov Regiment of Ukraine’s National Guard released footage of about two dozen children and women who were trapped in the plant earlier Saturday. Some of them said that they had been living in the underground tunnels of the mill for two months and long to see the sun.
One woman in the video stated that she wanted to see calm skies and to be able to breathe fresh air. "You don't know what it means to us to just eat and drink sweetened tea. It is already happiness for us.
Sviatoslav Palamar (the regiment's deputy command) told The Associated Press that the video was recorded on Thursday, the day Russia declared victory over the rest. It was not possible to independently verify the contents.
Both Russian and Ukrainian authorities claim that the Azovstal plant, which is strategically important to Moscow, is the last defense stronghold in Mariupol. It has been under siege ever since Russia invaded Ukraine.
According to Ukrainian authorities, more than 100,000 people are trapped in Mariupol without food, water, or heat.
Azovstal footage showed soldiers handing sweets to children, who responded with fist-bumps. One little girl claims that she and her family have not seen the sun or the sky since February 27, when they left home.
More than 20,000 civilians were killed in Mariupol over the two-month-long siege. Satellite images this week revealed mass graves close to Mariupol. Local officials accuse Russia of concealing the massacre.
After many failed attempts, Ukrainian officials claimed that they would attempt to evacuate children and women from Mariupol on Saturday. Telegram's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Veselchuk stated that they were attempting to evacuate Mariupol at noon, but it was not clear how the new attack on the plant would impact any evacuation.
Russian officials confirmed that Russia has taken 12 crack military units from Mariupol in support of the offensive in eastern Donbas. Other troops are still keeping the remaining Ukrainian troops in the city in place, according to Ukrainian officials.
Russian troops in Donbas launched an offensive to seize Ukraine's industrial heartland. However, they have not made much progress as fierce Ukrainian counterattacks have slowed down their progress, according to British and Ukrainian officials.
According to the General Staff of Ukraine, the Ukrainian forces have repelled eight Russian strikes in the two regions over the last 24 hours, and destroyed nine tanks, 18 armored units, 13 vehicles, and a tanker, as well as three artillery system and three artillery guns.
"Units of Russian occupiers have begun to regroup. The Russian enemy continues to launch bomb and missile strikes on civilian infrastructure and military facilities," stated the General Staff on its Facebook page.
Serhiy Haidai, the Luhansk Governor, said Saturday that two people died in Russian shelling at Popasna. Separately, Oleh Synehubov, Kharkiv's regional governor, stated on Telegram Saturday that two people had been killed and 19 others were injured by Russian shelling. Synehubov stated that the Russian forces had fired 56 shots at the civilian infrastructure of the region in the last day.
Haidai posted on Telegram that "in addition to the fact the street fighting continues in the City (of Popasna for several weeks), the Russian army continuously fires at multistory residential structures and private homes." "Local residents have beaten five enemy artillery fires in the past." "... Some people did not survive."
The Ministry of Defense of Britain stated that despite increased activity, "Russian forces have not made any major gains in 24 hours because Ukrainian counter-attacks continue hinder the efforts."
Russia has not yet established air or maritime control because of Ukrainian resistance. "Heavy fighting continues to occur, frustrating Russian attempts at capture of the city, thus further slowing down their desired progress in Donbas," the Ministry of Defense stated.
According to Danilov, more than 100,000 soldiers and mercenaries from Syria, Libya and other countries have been sent by the Kremlin into the conflict in Ukraine. They are also deploying more troops every day.
He said, "We are in a difficult position but our army is protecting our state."
Maksym Kozytskyy, the regional governor of western Ukraine, announced a curfew in Lviv ahead of Orthodox Easter. Kozytskyy mentioned "new intelligence" and stated that the curfew would be in effect from 11 p.m. on Saturday through 5 a.m. on Sunday and continue until further notice.
Kozytskyy stated that "Unfortunately, there is no such concept as a major religious holiday."
Mariupol is now a key player in the conflict. It would be impossible to capture it fully and the Ukrainians would lose a crucial port. Russia could also create a land corridor connecting Russia with the Crimean Peninsula. Moscow took the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.
Putin could also take over the city to increase his force in the potential climactic battle against the Donbas and its coal mines and factories, as well as other industries.
After weeks of bombardment, the city was reduced to ashes. Russian state television showed the flag of pro-Moscow Donetsk rebels being raised on the TV tower, which it claimed was the highest point of the city. It also displayed what it claimed was the main building in flames.
According to Oleksiy Danilov (secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council), Ukrainian forces managed to deliver weapons via helicopter under cover of darkness.
Maxar Technologies' latest satellite photos revealed a second mass grave near Mariupol. Maxar stated in a statement that the site is located in Vynohradne and has multiple parallel trenches of approximately 40m (131 feet) in length.
Maxar had earlier released photos showing what appeared to be hundreds of freshly dug mass graves, some of which were located near a Mariupol cemetery. Ukrainians have accused the Russians of trying to hide the massacre of civilians in the area.
According to the Ukrainians, the photos of the graves released Thursday might contain 9,000 bodies.
The satellite images were not received by the Kremlin.
Date Of Update: 23 April 2022, 11:09
Fisch reported from Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine. This story was contributed by Mstyslav Chernov, Felipe Dana, Associated Press journalist in Kharkiv (Ukraine), Yuras Karmanau, Inna Varenytsia, Kviv, and Associated Press staff around the globe.