Chicago Tribune (Sunday)
Russian attacks hit Odesa, Mariupol
Ukraine: Women, kids, older adults exit from steel mill
ZAPORIZHZHIA , Ukraine — Russian forces fired cruise missiles at the southern Ukrainian city of Odesa on Saturday and bombarded a besieged steel mill in Mariupol, hoping to complete their conquest of the port in time for Victory Day celebrations. Ukraine announced that all women, children and older adults had been evacuated from the mill, a key Russian war objective.
In a sign of the unexpectedly effective defense that has sustained the fighting, Ukraine’s military flattened Russian positions on a Black Sea island that was captured in the war’s first days and has become a symbol of resistance. Western military analysts also said a Ukrainian counteroffensive was advancing around the nation’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, even as it remained a target of Russian shelling.
The largest European conflict since World War II has developed into a punishing war of attrition that has killed thousands of people, forced millions to flee their homes and destroyed large swaths of some cities. Ukrainian leaders warned that attacks would only worsen ahead of Russia’s holiday on Monday commemorating Nazi Germany’s defeat 77 years ago, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged people to heed air raid warnings.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saturday that Zelenskyy and his people “embody the spirit of those who prevailed during the Second World War.” He accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of trying “to twist history to attempt to justify his unprovoked and brutal war against Ukraine.”
On Saturday, six Russian cruise missiles fired from aircraft hit the region of Odesa, where authorities have a curfew in place until Tuesday morning. Videos posted on social media showed thick black smoke rising over the city as sirens wailed.
Satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press showed Ukraine targeting Russian-held Snake Island in a bid to impede Russia’s efforts to control the Black Sea. An image taken Saturday by Planet Labs PBC showed that most of the island’s buildings had been destroyed by Ukrainian drone attacks, as well as what appeared to be a landing craft against the island’s northern beach.
The image corresponds with a Ukrainian military video showing a drone striking the Russian vessel, engulfing it in flames. Snake Island, located some 20 miles off the coast, figured in a memorable incident early in the war when Ukrainian border guards stationed there defied Russian orders to surrender, purportedly using colorful language.
In Mariupol, Ukrainian fighters made a final stand against a complete Russian takeover of the strategically important city, which would give Moscow a land bridge to the Crimea Peninsula, annexed from Ukraine during a 2014 invasion.
Satellite photos shot Friday by Planet Labs PBC showed vast devastation at the sprawling Azovstal seaside steel mill, the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the city.
After rescuers evacuated the last civilians Saturday, Zelenskyy said in his nightly address that the focus would turn to extracting the wounded and medics: “Of course, if everyone fulfills the agreements. Of course, if there are no lies.”
He added that work would also continue Sunday on securing humanitarian corridors for residents of Mariupol and surrounding towns to leave.
Russian Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev confirmed the evacuations. The latest evacuees followed roughly 500 others who were allowed to leave the plant and other parts of the city in recent days.
The situation at the plant has drawn the world’s attention, with the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross desperately trying to organize evacuations.
In recent days, fighters inside had described bringing out small groups of civilians who had been hiding there for weeks. The fighters said via social media that both they and the Russians have used a white flag system to halt fighting in order to get civilians out.
But Russian forces have intensified fire on the mill with mortars, artillery, truck-mounted rocket systems, aerial bombardment and shelling from the sea, making evacuation operations difficult.
It remains unclear what will happen to the estimated 2,000 fighters at Azovstal, both those still in combat and the hundreds believed to be wounded. In recent days the Ukrainian government has been reaching out to international organizations to try to secure safe passage for them. The fighters have repeatedly vowed not to surrender.
Also Saturday, a Russian missile destroyed a national museum in the Kharkiv region dedicated to philosopher Gregory Skovoroda, the local council said.
And in another eastern region, Luhansk, Gov. Serhiy Haidai said two boys aged 11 and 14 were killed by Russian shelling in the town of Pryvillia, while two girls aged 8 and 12 and a 69-yearold woman were wounded.