Despite continuous efforts to evacuate scores of Ukrainian citizens who were sheltering inside, Russian forces began attacking the Azovstal steel complex in the beleaguered coastal city of Mariupol on Tuesday, according to Ukraine’s Azov Regiment.
Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of Ukraine’s Azov Regiment, said the Russians were mounting a heavy assault. He said: “Heavy aircraft bombs were dropped. As a result of these criminal acts, two civilian women died. About ten civilians were injured to varying degrees.”
“The assault [is underway] with the support of armored vehicles and tanks, attempts to land troops from boats and a large number of infantry.”
“We’ll do everything that’s possible to repel the assault, but we’re calling for urgent measures to evacuate the civilians that remain inside the plant and to bring them to safety,” Palamar said.
The Azov Battalion is a far-right militia now part of Ukraine’s National Guard.
The Russian attack comes approximately two weeks after Russian Vladimir Putin declared a victory in Mariupol and ordered his military to not storm the plan but to blockade it.
It also comes as the first convoy of evacuees from the steel plant arrived in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia. The Ukrainians were allowed to leave during a short ceasefire over the weekend, in an operation overseen by the UN and the Red Cross.