A statement from the Donetsk People’s Republic said on Thursday that “updated road signs” were set up outside the southeastern port city, which has been the focal point for some of the most fearsome Russian bombings.
“Work to change road signs across liberated territory will continue,” the statement added.
The separatist group released a number of images of municipal workers in orange high-vis vests swapping the signs
It comes as Ukrainian troops in Mariupol on Saturday are preparing for yet further assaults from Russian forces on the Azovstal steelworks in a bid to capture the city in time for Victory Day celebrations.
The Russian holiday on Monday commemorates the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945 and the end of the Second World War. The day is typically marked with displays of military might, fireworks and marching troops.
“These symbolic dates are to the Russian aggressor like red to a bull,” said Ukraine’s first deputy interior minister, Yevhen Yenin. “While the entire civilised world remembers the victims of terrible wars on these days, the Russian Federation wants parades and is preparing to dance over bones in Mariupol.”
The steel plant is the last part of the city still in the hands of Ukrainian fighters. Scores of civilians have been trapped for weeks alongside them in the plant with little food, water or medicine.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a late-night video address on Friday that Ukraine was working on a diplomatic effort to save defenders barricaded inside the steelworks. It was unclear how many Ukrainian fighters remained there.
“Influential intermediaries are involved, influential states,” he said, but provided no further details.
Evacuations brokered by the United Nations began last weekend for some of the hundreds of civilians who had taken shelter in a network of tunnels and bunkers beneath the plant. But they were halted during the week by renewed fighting.
On Friday afternoon, 50 women, children and elderly people were evacuated, Ukrainian deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk said, adding that the operation would continue on Saturday.
The Russian side had constantly violated a ceasefire, she said, making the evacuation very slow.
Russia confirmed the number of evacuees and said: “The humanitarian operation at Azovstal will continue on May 7.”
This article was amended on 11 May 2022 . It originally referred to signs being in ‘English’ when it should have stated Roman script.
The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.
Additional reporting by agencies.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies