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Ukraine enters ‘long’ phase of war, says Defense Minister

A satellite view of damage to the eastern end of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, May 12. (Maxar Technologies)

Ukrainian officials say the beleaguered soldiers at the Azovstal steelworks were again shelled by the Russians.

Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, said planes dropped heavy bombs on the factory, “because very powerful explosions are being heard. People also saw columns of smoke.

“As far as I know, after the shelling stops, the Russians might try to launch ground attacks,” he said.

“The territory of the factory is huge, they [the Russians] are trying to break through the facility, gain a foothold and find entrances and exits to the underground areas – where the field hospital is, where our defenders are,” Andriushcheko said.

So far, their efforts to break into the factory had not been very successful. “And that’s what’s causing the new shelling, the new artillery cover for these ground operations,” Andriushchenko said.

He also said more people were returning to Mariupol because the Russians were not allowing them to enter Ukrainian-held territory.

“People are returning due to the effective closure of all green corridors by the Russian Federation. People who have settled in Mariupol district, Nikolske district, Berdyansk district, who cannot get to Zaporizhzhia, are forced to return to the city, to their homes. At the same time, we have not seen an increase in food supplies,” he said.

The International Red Cross is discussing with Russian officials the fate of those seriously injured and still trapped in Azovstal, according to Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister.

“We have started a new round of negotiations around the roadmap for the special operation. Let’s start with the seriously injured,” she said.

“We want a document to be signed: how exactly the evacuation of Azovstal will take place, we are preparing to sign it.”

Vereshchuk said Turkey has agreed to mediate in the current round of talks.

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