The images show the desperate situation of both civilians and injured Ukrainian soldiers sheltering inside the tunnels and bunkers of the huge industrial complex. The four sqaure-mile plant has become the site of the last stand of the city’s Ukrainian defenders, as they heroically continue to repel Russian attacks. The capture of Mariupol would allow the Russians to create a land corridor between the Donbas regions it controls and the Crimea, as well as providing access to the Sea of Azov.
According to Mariupol’s city council, there are at least 2,000 civilians sheltering in the plant, along with injured marines and medics.
In a statement accompanying the photos, the council said: “This is what the hospital in one of Azovstal’s shelters looks like.
“Terrible photos. But the world needs to know what is going on.
“They are under fire 24 hours a day from the Russian army. Continuously.
“And it’s not just military personnel at the plant. Most people are civilians.
“There are at least 2,000 civilians at the Azovstal plant. Women, children, and the elderly.
“There are many wounded. In unsanitary and terrible conditions. Without medication.
“The shortage of drinking water and food is catastrophic. The people must be rescued immediately.”
Mariupol has been subjected to a brutal bombardment and siege by Russian forces, who surrounded the city at the beginning of March.
The Red Cross described the situation there as “apocalyptic” and Ukrainian authorities have accused Moscow of deliberately engineering a major humanitarian crisis in the city.
City officials claim over 20,000 citizens have died during the siege, while 95 percent of the buildings have been damaged by artillery shelling and missile attacks.
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Vladimir Putin last week called off attempts to storm the Azovstal complex by Russian forces and instead ordered them to impose a blockade of the site.
At a televised meeting with his Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu, he said: “Block off this industrial area so that a fly cannot not pass through.
“There is no need to climb into these catacombs and crawl underground through these industrial facilities.”
However, the Institute for Study of War reported in its latest bulletin that Russian forces continued to bomb the plant and carry out manoeuvres around its perimeter.
They wrote: “Ukrainian forces likely still hold important positions beyond the plant itself, and Russian forces continue to fight outside the plant, bomb the plant, and assault positions near the plant.
“Putin’s order not to chase Ukrainian defenders into the tunnels and catacombs of the facility evidently did not preclude continued efforts to secure at least the entire perimeter of the plant and likely also the important M14 highway that runs along it to the north and northwest.”