Fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces is “ongoing” in the strategic port of Mariupol, the local governor told CNN Tuesday.
“There is fighting ongoing in Mariupol. This is street fighting,” said Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region.
Ukrainian forces there are “under heavy bombardment” but “continue to defend Mariupol.”
“There are certain districts where street fighting is continuing. I can’t say the Russians are controlling them,” Kyrylenko said, adding that the fighting was “not just small arms fighting, but also tank fighting.”
It is not possible to verify information given by either side given the scale of the fighting and lack of communications.
Russian forces are believed to have gradually pushed their way into the city, pinning Ukrainian troops down to the giant Azovstal factory near the port, which is equipped with vast underground tunnels.
Some Ukrainian officials said Tuesday that Russian forces hit a hospital near the Azovstal plant, but gave different accounts on possible victims.
Local businessman and MP Serhiy Taruta said on Facebook that 300 people were in the building when it was hit, but Mariupol mayoral advisor Petro Andryushchenko later said “nobody is hiding in the zone around Azovstal, especially in the already destroyed hospital, for some time.”
Svyatoslav Palamar, a commander in the nationalist Azov battalion defending Mariupol, told local media that “the Azovstal factory was bombed and almost entirely destroyed.”
Russia on Tuesday called on Ukrainian forces in Mariupol to “immediately” lay down their arms in a new ultimatum.
Its defence ministry said Ukrainian forces still holed up inside Azvostal were facing a “catastrophic situation”.
“Everyone who lays down their arms will be guaranteed survival,” it said.
Mariupol’s city council said Monday that hundreds of civilians are also taking shelter in the factory.
“There are at least 1,000 civilians in the underground shelters of the metallurgical plant. Mostly women with children and the elderly,” it said on Telegram.
Russia last week claimed that more than a thousand Ukrainian soldiers had surrendered in Mariupol from a separate factory.
According to pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists, several hundred others are still fighting from within the huge Azovstal factory.
Thousands of civilians are believed to have been killed in the city, with those escaping speaking of harrowing conditions.
48,780 people have also been wounded in the war, a spokesman said
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