The Azovstal steelworks, the last bastion defended by Ukrainian forces in Mariupol, came under Russian control on Friday, while in the Donbass, further north, Moscow artillery pounded the positions of kyiv.
In the early evening, the spokesman for the Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that the steel complex had been “fully liberated”, after the surrender of the last Ukrainian soldiers, and that the news had been passed on to President Vladimir Putin.
Earlier in the day, the on-site leader of the men of the Azov regiment, Denys Prokopenko, with a large bandage on his right arm and a swollen left, had indicated in a video that “the higher military command gave the order to save the lives of the soldiers of our garrison and to stop defending the city”.
After the evacuation of civilians and then hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers taken prisoner by the Russians, “the process continues” to evacuate the bodies of the soldiers killed, added the commander of this elite regiment founded by Ukrainian nationalists, which defended Azovstal in particular alongside a unit of marines.
Last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in this city, the immense metallurgical complex with its maze of underground galleries dug at the time Soviet “passed under the complete control of the Russian Armed Forces”, added the Russian spokesperson.
The Russian army published images Friday evening which it presented as being those of the search of unarmed Ukrainian fighters by Russian soldiers, particularly attentive to the tattoos of their prisoners.
“Rescuing Our Heroes”
Earlier footage released by Moscow showed cohorts of men in combat gear emerging from the steelworks, some with crutches or bandages, after a long battle that had become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion. . According to kyiv, the martyr city was 90% destroyed and at least 20,000 people died there.
kyiv did not speak of surrender at Azovstal but of “rescue our heroes” with international support, in the words of President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday evening.
Ukraine wants to organize an exchange of prisoners of war, but Russia has made it known, implicitly targeting the Azov regiment, that it considers some of them to be combatants. neo-Nazis”.
In a statement, the ICRC recalled that the Geneva Convention required belligerents to give it “full access” to allow access to prisoners of war. “wherever they are detained”including to inform families who are “still many still lack answers”.
“Hell” in Donbass
After failing to take kyiv and Kharkiv, the second Ukrainian city (northeast), Russia is concentrating its military efforts in the east and south. Moscow seeks in particular to completely conquer the Donbass, partially controlled since 2014 by pro-Russian separatists.
“Russian forces are conducting intense fire along the entire front line,” Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman Oleksandre Motouzianyk said, adding that the situation “showed signs of worsening”. ” It’s hell “ in the Donbass, where a heavy artillery battle is underway, the Ukrainian president said Thursday evening. Its services reported Friday morning bombings on an axis running from the northeast to the south of the country.
In Lozova, a town in the east, “a Russian missile hit the house of culture which had just been rebuilt: seven victims, including an eleven-year-old child” were injured, Volodymyr Zelensky said on Telegram.
The Ukrainian president accompanied his message with a video showing a powerful explosion pulverizing the building in a cloud of smoke.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu for his part assured that the conquest of the Lugansk region, which with that of Donetsk constitutes the Donbass, was “almost complete”.
Russian strikes left 12 dead and 40 injured on Thursday in Severodonetsk, in the Lugansk region, according to local governor Serguiï Gaïdaï.
According to the Ukrainian authorities, up to 15,000 people still live in shelters in Severodonetsk, devastated by the bombs. An AFP team found that the industrial city had been transformed into a battlefield for several days and crushed under artillery fire.
Severodonetsk and Lyssytchansk, separated by a river, constitute the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the region. “The enemy launched assault attempts in the direction of Severodonetsk, had no success and were forced to fall back”, said the Ukrainian Defense Ministry. In addition, Russian soldiers killed five civilians in the Donetsk region on Thursday, according to Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.
In Mala Rogan, about ten kilometers northeast of Kharkiv, many abandoned belongings including sleeping bags, razors, toothbrushes, jackets, even a card game or fruits in brandy, no far from a destroyed tank, showed on the other hand that the Russian soldiers had to flee hastily in the face of a Ukrainian counter-attack which liberated this zone.
While the negotiations carried out a few weeks ago under Turkish mediation are at a standstill, Italy indicated on Friday that it had proposed the constitution of a “international facilitation group composed of international organizations” such as the UN, the EU and the OSCE.
“The objective is to work step by step (…) starting, for example, from localized truces, the evacuation of civilians, the possibility of opening secure humanitarian corridors, and then of course to increase in power to arrive at a general ceasefire, then a lasting peace with a real peace agreement “explained Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio in Turin.
It is now time for war, and the US Congress on Thursday released a gigantic envelope of 40 billion dollars to support the Ukrainian war effort. These include allowing Ukraine to equip itself with armor and strengthen its anti-aircraft defense
At the same time, the G7 countries meeting in Germany promised on Friday to mobilize 19.8 billion dollars (18.7 billion euros) to help Ukraineto fill its financial gap.
But Germany said it was opposed on Friday to a new common European debt, on the model of the post-Covid recovery plan.
Seeming to settle for a long time, the war threatens to aggravate the world food crisis, as it seriously disrupts agricultural activity and grain exports from Ukraine, one of the largest wheat exporters.
“Stop blockading the Black Sea ports! Allow free movement of ships, trains and trucks carrying food out of Ukraine,”demanded Thursday evening the head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, during a meeting of the Security Council of the United Nations.