Speaking on Saturday at a press conference in Kyiv, Natalia Zarytska, the wife of Bogdan Sements, who is among those trapped in the sprawling steelworks, said: “Strong leaders cannot stand aside when there is evil.
“After all these negotiations there is one person worldwide who it would be difficult for Vladimir Putin to refuse. We hope that strong and good China can make difficult decisions for the good.
“We ask the esteemed premier of China, Xi Jinping, to express love and care for global values and eastern wisdom and to join the process of rescuing the defenders of Mariupol.”
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said talks with Moscow on extracting a “large number” of wounded defenders and some medics out of the plant in Mariupol in return for the release of Russian prisoners of war were “very complex”, adding that Kyiv was using influential intermediaries.
Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk told local TV on Saturday that efforts were now focused on evacuating about 60 people.
Sviatoslav Palamar, the deputy commander of the Azov regiment, which makes up most of the remaining forces at the plant, said on a YouTube video that his soldiers were holding on.
He said: “Our enemy, supported by planes and artillery, continues to attack. They continue their assault on our positions but we continue to repel them.”
The developments came as a joint statement from foreign ministers was issued by the world’s seven biggest economies, known as the G7, who said they would not recognise the borders Russia is trying to redraw.
After three days of talks in northern Germany, the ministers from the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US warned they would expand sanctions on Russia that would cripple its economy.
They said: “We will never recognise borders Russia has attempted to change by military aggression, and will uphold our engagement in the support of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea, and all states.
“We reaffirm our determination to further increase economic and political pressure on Russia, continuing to act in unity.”
They warned the war in Ukraine was stoking a global food crisis and called for Moscow to unlock key ports and allow Ukrainian grain exports.
They said: “Up to 50 million people, particularly in the countries of Africa and the Middle East, will die in the next few months … Russia’s war of aggression has generated one of the most severe food and energy crises in recent history, which now threatens those most vulnerable across the globe.”
The G7 also called on China not to aid Vladimir Putin and “to desist from engaging in information manipulation, disinformation and other means to legitimise Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine”.
Three weeks before Putin launched his war in Ukraine, the Russian president signed a pact with his Chinese counterpart that said there would be “no limits” to the two countries’ cooperation.