Combined Ukrainian forces at the last bastion of defense in the besieged Donetsk regional city of Mariupol say their situation remains “difficult.”
Russian forces assaulting the city have penetrated the tunnel network of the Azovstal steel plant and have been engaging the Ukrainian defenders for the second consecutive day, Denys Prokopenko, head of the Azov unit of the National Guard said on May 4 on the Telegram social media platform.
Civilians, including children, women and elderly people are also holed up in the vast network of tunnels underneath the sprawling steel plant situated along the Azov Sea coastal city, Donetsk region’s second largest city.
A path into to the tunnels was allegedly shown to the invading Russians by an electrician of the plant by “a traitor,” Interior Ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko said.
“For the second day, the enemy broke into the plant. There are heavy, bloody battles,” Prokopenko said. “I am proud of my soldiers who are making superhuman efforts to contain the enemy’s onslaught. I thank the whole world for the tremendous support of the Mariupol garrison. Our soldiers deserve it!”
He added that the “situation is extremely difficult.”
The combined forces of national guardsmen, marines, border guards, police and security officers have been entrenched and surrounded since April 25.
Davyd Arakhamiya, the head of the pro-presidential parliamentary faction of Servant of the People, confirmed on May 4 that the premises of the steel plant has been penetrated by invading Russian forces.
President Volodymyr Zelensky has stated that he is using “all diplomatic” channels to secure safe passage of the remaining civilians trapped at the steel plant.
A total of 344 women, children and elderly from Mariupol and surrounding villages and towns of Manhush, Berdyansk, Tokmak and Vasylivka on May 4 completed an evacuation journey to Ukrainian-controlled Zaporizhya, local media reported.
The previous day, only three of 14 buses that left Mariupol over the past weekend made it to Zaporizhya. Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko said they “got stuck in filtration camps.”
Up to 100,000 civilians are believed to be still in the city and surrounding settlements, and many have been deported to Russia by the invading forces, according to Ukrainian ombudswoman Liudmyla Denisova.
Russia’s Defense Ministry announced on May 4 that it will allow for the evacuation of civilians from the steel plant from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Moscow time on May 5, 6, and 7.
National guardsmen from the Azov Regiment have reported that snipers target them when they appear from the steel plant when accompanying the fleeing civilians.
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