KYIV: Ukraine on Friday (May 20) ordered its last troops holed up in Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks to lay down their arms, while Russia said its months-long operation to capture the strategic port city is now complete.
Russia’s flattening of Mariupol has drawn multiple accusations of war crimes, including over a deadly attack on a maternity ward, and Ukraine has begun a legal reckoning for captured Russian troops.
The first post-invasion trial of a Russian soldier for war crimes neared its climax in Kyiv, after 21-year-old sergeant Vadim Shishimarin admitted to killing an unarmed civilian early in the offensive. The verdict is due on Monday.
Shishimarin told the court on Friday that he was “truly sorry”. But his lawyer said in closing arguments that the young soldier was “not guilty” of premeditated murder and war crimes.
While Ukrainian forces fended off the Russian offensive around Kyiv, helped by a steady infusion of Western arms, both eastern Ukraine and Mariupol in the south have borne the brunt of a remorseless ground and artillery attack.
“Russian occupation forces are conducting intense fire along the entire line of contact and trying to hit artillery deep into the defences of Ukrainian troops,” Ukrainian defence ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk told reporters.
The fighting is fiercest in the eastern region of Donbas, a Russian-speaking area that has been partially controlled by pro-Kremlin separatists since 2014.
“In Donbas, the occupiers are trying to increase pressure,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly video address late on Thursday. “There’s hell – and that’s not an exaggeration.”
In the eastern city of Severodonetsk, 12 people were also killed and another 40 wounded by Russian shelling, the regional governor said.