Russia warns Ukraine to lay down arms in Mariupol “to stop all hostilities” – National

Russia has told Ukrainian forces fighting in the besieged southern port of Mariupol to lay down their weapons at 6 a.m. Moscow time (0300 GMT) on Sunday to save their lives.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said its troops had cleared the Mariupol metropolitan area and only a small contingent of Ukrainian fighters remained at the city’s steel plant on Saturday.

Moscow’s claim that it has taken control of Mariupol, the scene of the worst battles in the war and the worst humanitarian catastrophe, cannot be confirmed independently. This will be the first major city to fall from Russian forces since the February 24 invasion.

Read more: Ukrainian Zelensky said the situation in Mariupol remains extremely difficult

“Given the catastrophic situation that has developed at the Azovstal metallurgical plant, and guided by purely humane principles, the Russian armed forces are offering fighters from nationalist battalions and foreign mercenaries from 06:00 (Moscow time) on April 17, 2022,” to stop all hostilities and to lay down weapons, “said a statement from the Ministry of Defense.

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“Everyone who takes up arms is guaranteed that their lives will be spared,” the statement said, adding that defenders could leave the plant by 10 a.m. without weapons and ammunition.

There was no immediate response from Kyiv.

“The situation is very difficult” in Mariupol, President Vladimir Zelensky told the Ukrainian Justice news portal. “Our soldiers are blocked, the wounded are blocked. There is a humanitarian crisis … However, the boys are defending themselves. “

As Moscow launched long-range missile attacks across the country following the sinking of its flagship in the Black Sea, Moscow said its fighter jets hit a tank repair plant in Kyiv on Saturday. An explosion was heard and smoke rose over the southeastern Darnytskyi region. The mayor said at least one person had died and medics were struggling to save others.

The Ukrainian military says Russian warplanes taking off from Belarus have fired missiles at the Lviv region near the Polish border and four cruise missiles have been shot down by Ukraine’s air defenses.

The western city, relatively unharmed so far, has served as a refuge for refugees and international aid agencies.

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In Mariupol, Reuters reporters reached the giant Ilyich steel plant, one of two metallurgical plants where defenders were trapped in underground tunnels and bunkers. Moscow says it captured him on Friday.

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The factory was turned into ruins of twisted steel and exploded concrete, without any traces of defenders present. Several bodies of civilians lay scattered in the nearby streets.

Russia’s defense ministry says its troops have “completely cleared” the Mariupol metropolitan area of ​​Ukrainian forces and blocked the “remains” at the Azovstal steel plant, RIA reported. It says that by Saturday, Ukrainian forces in the city had lost more than 4,000 people.

Zelensky accused Russia of “deliberately trying to destroy everyone” in Mariupol and said his government was in contact with defenders. He did not respond to Moscow’s claim that Ukrainian forces were no longer in urban areas.

The eastern provincial governor of Kharkov said at least one person had been killed and 18 injured in a rocket attack. Smoke rose from burning cars and the remains of what looked like an office building in the city.

In Nikolaev near the southern front, Russia said it had struck a factory for repairing military vehicles.

41-year-old Ukrainian Nikolai says goodbye to his 4-year-old daughter Elina and his wife Lolita on a train traveling to Poland fleeing the war at the station in Lviv, Western Ukraine, Friday, April 15, 2022 (AP Photo / Emilio Morenati)

The attacks followed Russia’s announcement Friday that it would step up long-range strikes in retaliation for unspecified acts of sabotage and terrorism, hours after it confirmed the sinking of its flagship in the Black Sea, Moscow.

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Kyiv and Washington say the ship, whose sinking has become a symbol of Ukrainian disobedience, has been hit by Ukrainian missiles. Moscow says it sank after a fire and its crew of about 500 people was evacuated.

Russia’s Defense Ministry has released a video of a meeting between Navy Chief Admiral Nikolai Evmenov at a parade ground with about 100 sailors said to be crew members.

If Mariupol falls, it will be Russia’s biggest war award to date. It is the main port of Donbass, a region of two southeastern provinces that Moscow wants to be completely ceded to separatists.

Ukraine says it has so far deterred Russian attacks in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, where at least one person was killed in a shelling night.

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Ukraine prevailed in the early stages of the war, in part by successfully deploying mobile units armed with anti-tank missiles delivered from the West against Russian armored convoys confined to muddy roads.

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But Putin seems determined to take more territory in the Donbass to claim victory in a war that has left Russia subject to increasingly punitive Western sanctions and few allies.

The upcoming round of European Union sanctions against Russia will target banks, including Sberbank SBER.MM, as well as oil, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

(Report by Reuters journalists in Kyiv, Lviv and Mariupol and Reuters offices around the world; Written by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Edited by William Mallard)