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Russia accused of using ‘bunker buster’ bombs to kill remaining Mariupol troops

Around 1,000 civilians were still hiding in shelters beneath a steel plant in the besieged city, officials have said

Thomas Kingsley
Tuesday 19 April 2022 08:28 BST
Battle for Donbas has begun, Zelensky announces, as Russia begins fresh Ukraine offensive

Russian forces have been accused of using devastating “bunker bombs” to target remaining Ukrainian troops, Kyiv officials have said

It comes as Putin’s forces attacked along a broad front in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday as part of a full-scale ground offensive to take control of the country’s eastern industrial heartland in what Ukrainian officials called a “new phase of the war.”

The stepped-up assaults began on Monday along a front of more than 300 miles, focused on the Donbasregions of Donetsk and Luhansk, with the Russian forces trying to advance in several sections, including from neighboring Kharkiv.

The commander of the Azov Regiment of the National Guard stationed in Mariupol, Denys Prokopenko, alleged Russian planes had began to deploy “bunker busters” to kill the last Ukrainian fighters and civilians sheltering in Azovstal steel plant - the scene of the city's last stand against the invaders' onslaught.

This map shows the extent of the Russian invasion of Ukraine (Press Association Images)

The sprawling plant contains a warren of tunnels where both fighters and civilians are sheltering. It is believed to be the last major pocket of resistance in the shattered city.

The “bunker buster” bombs are designed to penetrate thick armour and kill targets underground.

Russia has Mariupol surrounded and has been fighting a bloody battle to seize it. If Russia takes Mariupol, it would free up troops for use elsewhere in the Donbas, deprive Ukraine of a vital port, and complete a land bridge between Russia and the Crimean Peninsula, seized from Ukraine from 2014.

An interior ministry sapper collects unexploded shells, grenades and other devices in Hostomel, close to Kyiv, Ukraine (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

On Monday, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address that a “significant part of the entire Russian army is now concentrated on this offensive.”

The city council said at least 1,000 civilians were still hiding in shelters beneath the vast Azovstal steel plant, which contain myriad buildings, blast furnaces and rail tracks.

Major Serhiy Volyna, commander of Ukraine's 36th marine brigade which is still fighting in Mariupol, appealed for help in a letter to Pope Francis.

Russia Ukraine War (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

“This is what hell looks like on earth ... It's time (for) help not just by prayers. Save our lives from satanic hands,” he said in the letter, according to excerpts that Ukraine's Vatican ambassador posted on Twitter.

In southern Donetsk, the general staff said the Russian military has continued to blockade and shell the strategic port city of Mariupol and fire missiles at other cities.

Western countries and Ukraine accuse Russian president Vladimir Putin of unprovoked aggression, and the White House said US president Joe Biden would hold a call with allies on Tuesday to discuss the crisis, including how to coordinate on holding Russia to account.

French president Emmanuel Macron said his dialogue with Putin had stalled after mass killings were discovered in Ukraine.

An aerial view taken on April 12, 2022, shows the city of Mariupol, during Russia's military invasion launched on Ukraine (AFP via Getty Images)

The United Nations said on Monday the war's civilian death toll had surpassed 2,000, reaching 2,072 as of midnight on 17 April from the beginning of the invasion on 24 February.

About 4 million Ukrainians have fled the country.

Russia denies targeting civilians in what it calls a special operation to demilitarise Ukraine and eradicate dangerous nationalists. It rejects what Ukraine says is evidence of atrocities, saying Ukraine has staged them to undermine peace talks.

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

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