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Date : May 17, 2022

‘Bloody battles’ rage inside Azovstal steel plant, last Mariupol holdout

Heavy fighting has been raging inside the Azovstal steel plant, where Mariupol’s last defenders have been holding out for weeks.

One commander of the remaining Ukrainian troops said late Wednesday that Russian forces had broken into the sprawling site and “heavy, bloody battles” were being fought. Civilians remain trapped in the plant despite this week’s successful evacuation, with Moscow vowing it would stop military activity on Thursday to allow more to make it out.

Gaining full control of Mariupol, the key port city, would mark a significant victory for the Kremlin as its eastern offensive struggles to make progress. In recent days Russian attacks have focused on striking infrastructure across the country in an apparent effort to disrupt the supply of Western weapons.

While stepping up their support for Kyiv, Ukraine’s allies are also focused on how to punish Moscow and hinder its war effort. European Union countries will continue to discuss the bloc’s proposed ban on Russian oil — a key source of funds for the Kremlin but also of energy for the continent.

Thousands of men face torture in Mariupol’s filtration camps, local mayor adviser says

Thousands of men have been detained in filtration camps of Mariupol, facing torture and forced labor, Petro Andriushchenko, adviser to the Mariupol mayor, said on Thursday on Telegram.

Four weeks ago, all men were removed from the Mariupol districts of Guglino, Myrnyi and Volonterivka, he said, with two thousand people being placed in schools and clubs of Bezimyane and Kozatske villages in Novoazovsk district.

These men are forced to sleep on the floors in the corridors with lack of hygiene or access to medical care, he said. According to Andriushchenko, a man died in Kozatske after the Russians refused to call an ambulance. A single sink of cold water is shared by thousands of detainees who receive only porridge as food, he said.

“In the absence of any of the detainees, the occupiers promise to intensify torture and execute other detainees,” he said. Each detainee, including those sick and disabled, is involved in “landscaping work” in the villages, he said.

If there is hell in the world, it is in Azvostal, advisor to Mariupol Mayor says

Shelling of the besieged Azvostal steel plant continued “non-stop” overnight into Thursday, according to Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the Mariupol mayor. Russian forces breached the perimeter of the plant on Wednesday, according to fighters inside.

“Shelling and assault without a break, even at night with the adjustment of fire from drones. In some areas, hostilities are already beyond the fence of the plant,” Andriushchenko said, warning that “in some areas, hostilities are already beyond the fence of the plant.”

On Wednesday night, residential neighborhoods near the plant were again closed to residents, who have been forced to “evacuate urgently on their own without warning.”

“The last 11 square kilometers [4 miles] of freedom in Mariupol have been turned into hell,” he said.

Zelenskyy announces new fundraiser

The Ukrainian government has launched a public fundraising platform to support the invaded country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced in a video message on Thursday.

The United24 global initiative will help raise funds “to protect our defenders, to save our civilians and help rebuild Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said.

All donations will be filed to the national bank of Ukraine and other relevant ministries, the president announced.

Azovstal battle rages on
Smoke rises from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine on May 4, 2022.
Pro-Russian Ukrainian politician and blogger detained in Spain

Pro-Russian blogger and politician Anatoly Shariy was detained in Spain on May 4, according to Ukraine’s security services.

Shariy is suspected of high treason by the Ukrainian authorities.

“He carried out illegal activities to the detriment of Ukraine’s national security in the information sphere. There is reason to believe that Anatoly Shariy acted on behalf of foreign structures,” the Security Service of Ukraine said in a statement on Facebook.

Shariy was a former journalist who fled Ukraine in 2012.

More than 300 people from Mariupol arrive in Zaporizhzhia

Mariupol’s city council said 344 evacuees arrived in the central Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia late Wednesday as part of an international humanitarian effort to get as many civilians out of the war-ravaged port city as possible.

The council shared several short videos in a Telegram poston Thursday of what appear to be evacuees arriving in buses in darkness.

“Most of them are women, children and the elderly from Mariupol,” the post said. “The evacuation was supported by a United Nations mission and the International Committee of the Red Cross.”

Mariupol is almost completely controlled by Russian forces, with the Azovstal steelworks plant remaining the only holdout of Ukrainian resistance, where Ukrainian officials have said civilians still remain in the plant’s underground tunnels and bunkers alongside Ukrainian fighters.

Missiles strike Russian controlled oil depot in eastern Ukraine
Missiles struck an oil facility in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Makiivka, 10 miles east of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine on May 4, 2022.
Japan says difficult to immediately follow Russia oil embargo

It would be difficult for Japan to immediately follow a move to cut off Russian oil imports over the invasion of Ukraine, a government official said Wednesday.

Koichi Hagiuda, the Japanese minister of economy, trade and industry, made the remark during a visit to Washington, after the European Union’s executive proposed the toughest package of sanctions yet against Moscow, including the embargo on crude oil.

“Given Japan has its limit on resources, we would face some difficulty to keep in step immediately” with other countries, Hagiuda told reporters.

Also on Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he could not accept Moscow’s decision to ban him and 62 other Japanese citizens from entry into Russia, and that Russia bore full responsibility for driving bilateral ties to where they are now.

Russia’s foreign ministry earlier announced sanctions against 63 Japanese officials, journalists and professors for engaging in “unacceptable rhetoric” against Moscow.

The decision came after Japan imposed sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin and other political and business leaders.

Belarus deploys ground forces for seasonal exercises, U.K. says

Belarusian ground forcers were observed deploying for seasonal exercises, with Russia expected to use them as a distraction for Ukrainian forces, according to the British defense ministry.

“Russia will likely seek to inflate the threat posed to Ukraine by these exercises in order to fix Ukrainian forces in the North, preventing them from being committed to the battle for the Donbas,” the ministry said in an intelligence update published Thursday.

The ministry said that deviation from these exercises, which may pose a threat, is not currently anticipated. The current deployment is line with seasonal norms as Belarus enters its winter training cycle culminating in May, it said.

At least 5 dead and 25 injured in shelling across Donetsk and Luhansk, local officials say

Dozens of people were injured with five dead after Russian rockets and artillery struck regions across Donetsk and Luhansk, local officials said on Thursday.

“As a result of the night shelling of Kramatorsk – at least 25 civilians were injured. Six of them need medical care in the hospital,” Kramatorsk Mayor Pavlo Kyrylenko said in a Telegram post. “The rockets damaged 9 houses, a school and numerous civilian infrastructure.”

Eighteen rounds of artillery shelling occurred in Luhansk on Wednesday, including the cities of Severodonetsk, Popasna and Lysychansk, said regional administration head Serhii Haidai in a Telegram post. Bodies of five shelling victims were also found, he said.

Ukraine asks U.S. for anti-ship missiles, drones, rocket launchers

Ukraine is asking the Biden administration for anti-ship missiles to secure ports that have been blocked by Russia’s navy, as well as more capable drones and multiple rocket launcher systems that can strike Russian forces at a longer distance, according to Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy conveyed the request to Crow and other lawmakers who visited Kyiv over the weekend, who then relayed the wish list to President Joe Biden directly.

Ukraine said it needed U.S.-made Harpoon anti-ship missiles or similar weapons to free up the use of the Black Sea port of Odesa and other ports for the export of millions of tons of grain and food. The ports are under a de facto naval blockade by Russian forces off the coast, Crow said.