Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko has announced Wednesday that Ukrainian officials no longer have communications contact with the estimated couple thousand Azov fighters still holed up beneath the cavernous Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.
Hundreds of civilians are also believed still trapped there, and running low on food, water and supplies. As we detailed Tuesday, for the first time in the weeks-long standoff for the sprawling complex, Russian forces attacked the plant as Azov fighters briefly emerged and reportedly set up firing positions.
These sporadic gun battles have continued, as part of the final showdown for Azovstal, and as the trapped Ukrainian militants vow to fight till the end, refusing Russian demands to immediately come out and surrender. Some few hundred civilians have also been safely led out over the past number of days under UN and Red Cross brokered ceasefires.
Mariupol Mayor Boichenko has issued a fresh statement: “Today there are heavy battles on the territory of our fortress, on the territory of Azovstal. Our brave guys are defending this fortress, but it is very difficult, because heavy artillery and tanks are firing all over the fortress; aviation is working, ships have approached and are also firing on the fortress.”
Of the some 30 children said to be trapped among the civilians still beneath the plant, he said, “They are waiting for a new negotiation procedure and a new evacuation mission,” and described a constant barrage of Russian artillery on the complex.
The mayor confirmed that any contact with those inside has ‘gone dark’…
“Unfortunately, today there is no connection with the guys, there is no connection to understand what is happening, whether they are safe or not. Yesterday there was a connection with them; today, no more.”
Amid recent Western media reports the Russians had “stormed” Azovstal overnight, the Kremlin has issued a statement rejecting this narrative.
Video from a DNR account showing Russian/DNR strikes on the Azovstal plant in Mariupol. Possibly by TOS-1A thermobaric MLRS. Not sure of the date. https://t.co/ZtGmAMDnx0 pic.twitter.com/c5Zy94WpBA
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) May 4, 2022
“There has been a public order by the supreme commander [Russian President Vladimir Putin] to cancel the storming; there is no storming,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday.
Peskov explained: “We see that there are aggravations associated with the fact that the militants go to firing positions. These attempts are suppressed very quickly. There is nothing else to say here yet.”
Ukrainian media is alleging that the Russians plan to hold a ‘Victory Day’ parade in the captured city of Mariupol…
⚡️ Ukraine’s Intelligence: Russia plans to hold military parade in Mariupol on May 9.
Intelligence Directorate reported that Russia is conducting “preparations for the parade,” by cleaning central streets from debris, unexploded ordnance and removing the bodies of those killed.
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) May 4, 2022
Despite what appears to be increasing desperation on the part of the Ukrainian fighters stuck inside and surrounded, the standoff could still last days, or even weeks more, depending on how much in the way of supplies they have, including ammo.
The desperation was captured in the following CNN interview with an Azov member:
Fighters inside the besieged plant are “sharing water and food” with civilians – but time is running out, the deputy commander of the Ukrainian Azov Regiment, Svyatoslav Palamar, told CNN on Monday evening.
“We are extremely short on supplies in terms of water and food. I cannot tell you for sure how much is left… but I can assure you that we are saving, very fearful without water and food, and especially ammunition,” Palamar, who is inside the plant, said.
He added: “If (worse) comes to worst and we run out of food, we’ll be catching birds and we’ll be doing everything just to stand firm.”
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