Natalia Tsyukalo, 62, demonstrates how she hid in her cellar from Russian shelling that hit the apartments across the street from her home in Irpin, Ukraine, on Wednesday. UPI Photo | License Photo
April 29 (UPI) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday that efforts are being made to get civilians safely out of the massive Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, one of the last strongholds of Ukrainian forces in the city.
The steel plant, which has an assortment of underground tunnels, has been under constant attack and bombardment by the Russian military for weeks as Ukrainian forces and civilians hunkered down there.
Moscow has sought to take over Mariupol, a southern port city, due to its strategic location related to Crimea and eastern Ukraine. The Russian military claimed victory in the city last week, although Ukrainian fighters and civilians are still in the plant.
“An operation is planned today to get civilians out of the plant,” Zelensky said according to The Guardian.
U.S. military officials say that Moscow has already moved a large number of troops from Mariupol and redeployed them to other fighting hot spots. They also noted that Russia has continued to struggle with logistics in eastern Ukraine — which is home to the separatist-heavy Donbas and is the focus of Russia’s current phase of the war — while making “slow and uneven” progress.
A resident removes leftover belongings from his apartment after it was destroyed by Russian missiles in Borodyanka, Ukraine, on Tuesday. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI
The British defense ministry said via Twitter Friday that Russia is still pushing to fully control Donetsk and Luhansk, the regions that make up the Donbas, in eastern Ukraine on Friday. Heavy fighting in the cities of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk was reported.
Russian forces attempted to advance south from Izyum in an effort to encircle Ukrainian forces — but those efforts have been limited due to strong Ukrainian resistance, British defense officials noted.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Radio Svoboda said one of its journalists was killed in a Russian missile strike in Kyiv on Thursday — Moscow’s first direct attack on the Ukrainian capital in weeks. The attack surprised many Kyiv residents who’d slowly begun to return to something approaching normal after two months of fighting.
“Radio Liberty journalist and producer Vera Girich died as a result of a Russian missile hitting the house where she lived in Kyiv,” Radio Svoboda said according to The Guardian. “The shelling took place on [Thursday]. The body of the deceased was found under the wreckage on [Friday] morning.”
The station said Girich had worked in the outlet’s Kyiv bureau since 2018. Before that, she was known throughout the country as a journalist on Ukrainian television channels.
The missile attack in Kyiv on Thursday came on the same day that United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres visited Zelensky there.
“Countries everywhere will recognize they cannot have their U.N. secretary general treated in this disrespectful, casual and frankly dangerous way, by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and the Russian regime,” Malloch Brown, former U.N. deputy secretary general, said according to NBC News.