Ukrainian Forces Try to Hold Mariupol as Combat Reaches City Streets

KYIV, Ukraine—Russian forces pushed into the city of Mariupol Saturday, a strategic move for Moscow, which considers the southern port city a gateway that would open a land corridor between Russia and its annexed region of Crimea.

During three weeks of bombardment and attack, defenders said they had kept Russian forces at bay on the city outskirts, but that has changed.

“The fighting is already in the city itself,” an official from the mayor’s office said via text message. “But Mariupol remains a Ukrainian city.”

The capture of Mariupol would be a key victory for Russia, which has so far failed to take any major Ukrainian cities. It would free up its forces to encircle Ukrainian army units in eastern regions and push further toward the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

In the southern city of Mykolaiv, Russian missile strikes the headquarters of the Ukrainian army’s 79th brigade, including the quarters where officers’ families live. Several buildings collapsed and footage from the scene, broadcast on Ukrainian television channels, showed a small child being dug out from the rubble. Ukrainian officials say 40 people, and possibly more, have been killed.

A resident sheltering in a basement in Mariupol, Ukraine.


Photo:

ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO/REUTERS

Vitaliy Kim, the governor of Mykolaiv, said in a video recording that the “cowardly” Russian strike targeted sleeping soldiers, and that rescue operations at the site are under way. The Ukrainian military counteroffensive in the region is pressing ahead, he added.

As Russian forces have pounded Mariupol with bombings and artillery, the city has emerged as a symbol of tough Ukrainian resistance as well as civilian suffering. Thousands of the city’s 400,000 have fled, and thousands have been killed, some dumped into mass graves, officials said.

Areas no longer controlled by Ukraine as of Friday

Direction of invasion forces

Controlled by or allied to Russia

Primary refugee crossing locations

Chernobyl

Not in operation

Ukraine territory, recognized by Putin as independent

Convtrolled by

separatists

Areas no longer controlled by Ukraine as of Friday

Direction of invasion forces

Controlled by or allied to Russia

Ukraine territory, recognized by Putin as independent

Primary refugee crossing locations

Chernobyl

Not in operation

Controlled by

separatists

Areas no longer controlled by Ukraine as of Friday

Direction of invasion forces

Controlled by or allied to Russia

Primary refugee crossing locations

Ukraine territory, recognized by Putin as independent

Chernobyl

Not in operation

Controlled by

separatists

Areas no longer controlled by Ukraine as of Friday

Direction of invasion forces

Controlled by or allied to Russia

Primary refugee crossing locations

Ukraine territory, recognized by Putin as independent

Areas no longer controlled by Ukraine as of Friday

Direction of invasion forces

Controlled by or allied to Russia

Primary refugee crossing locations

Ukraine territory, recognized by Putin as independent

Kyiv has tried to relieve Mariupol, so far unsuccessfully. Oleksiy Aristovych, an adviser to Ukraine’s president, said there was no way for Ukrainian forces to break Russia’s siege, addressing criticism the government is not doing enough.

Mariupol’s proximity to the Russian border means Moscow could easily bring massive air power to bear on it from nearby military hubs, such as Crimea and the southern Russian city of Rostov, he said.

Local residents carrying water on the outskirts of Mariupol, Ukraine.


Photo:

Alexei Alexandrov/Associated Press

The closest Ukrainian units to Mariupol are more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) away, he said, and the terrain around the city provides no cover from Russian attacks.

“No army in the world—even the US—would make it that distance with the forces that we currently have there, unfortunately,” Mr. Aristovych said.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his overnight address that 9,000 people have been evacuated from the city. Rescuers in Mariupol evacuated 130 people from the wreckage of a theater hit by an raid this week and searched for more survivors.

About 1,300 people remained trapped in the basement of the theater Friday, where residents had sought shelter from Russian shelling, said Lyudmyla Denisova, Ukraine’s human-rights commissioner, adding that it was difficult to be certain of the number of survivors. She didn’t confirm any consequence.

Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to press on with his invasion of Ukraine in a rare public appearance Friday in front of a crowd of tens of thousands of flag-waving supporters in a Moscow stadium.

A Ukrainian soldier in a military trench in Mykolaiv, Ukraine.


Photo:

bulent kilic/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

A Ukrainian soldier was rescued from the debris of a military school hit by a Russian strike in Mykolaiv, Ukraine.


Photo:

bulent kilic/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

While parts of the Russian offensive have been bogged down by poor planning and logistics, Moscow has been showingcasing some of its high-tech weaponry with long-distance missile strikes. The Russian Defense Ministry said Saturday it fired an air-launched ballistic missile on Ukraine in what may have been the first use of the system Mr. Putin announced several years ago.

The weapon struck a large underground warehouse of missiles and aviation ammunition near Deliatyn in western Ukraine, the ministry said. Russian state media, RIA Novosti, said it was the first use of the new weapon.

Ukrainian refugees lining up to cross over into Poland via the Medyka border crossing in Shehyni, Ukraine.


Photo:

Angel Garcia/Bloomberg News

Ukraine’s military confirmed a strike on the facility and that ammunition stored there was detonated. There was no information yet on the number of consequence or the type of weapon used, the military said.

Mr. Zelensky said Russian forces “continue to block the supply of humanitarian aid to the besieged cities in most areas,” aside from the seven open humanitarian corridors. He added that more than 180,000 Ukrainians have been rescued and tons of essential supplies have been delivered. He also dropped all taxes and customs duties in an effort to expedite cargo entering the nation.

Mr. Zelensky called on Russia to negotiate and said that in the coming days he will address other nations like Switzerland, Israel, Italy and Japan, just like he did the US, Canada and Germany. “It’s time to meet. Time to talk. It is time to restore territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine,” he said. “Otherwise, Russia’s losses will be so huge that several generations won’t be enough to rebound…Ukraine’s proposals are on the table.”

Russian missiles targeted the Ukrainian region closest to the Polish border, hitting an airfield near Lviv; Kyiv firefighters put out flames as shelling left residential areas in ruins; President Biden and Xi Jinping held talks about Ukraine. Photo: Associated Press

President Biden spoke with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in a nearly two-hour videoconference on Friday, in an attempt to deter Beijing from deeper involvement with Moscow on its war effort.

“President Biden made clear the implication and consequences of China providing material support” to Russia, a senior US official said after the call.

Mr. Xi sought to present China as a peacemaker. “The Ukraine crisis is something we don’t want to see,” he told Mr. Biden, according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency. “Conflict and confrontation are not in the interests of anyone.”

Write to Alan Cullison at [email protected] and Isabel Coles at [email protected]

Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

.

Leave a Comment