Extra Ukrainian fighters are surrendering in Mariupol, Russia says

  • The US reopens the embassy in Kyiv
  • Ukraine says saboteurs are targeting a Russian armored train
  • Russian forces push for offensive in eastern Donbass

Kyiv/MARIUPOL, Ukraine, May 19 (Reuters) – Moscow said nearly 700 other Ukrainian militants surrendered in Russian-held Mariupol as it secured a key win in the south, while the United States became the latest western country to do so his embassy reopened in Kyiv.

Ukraine has ordered its Mariupol garrison to withdraw, but the ultimate outcome of Europe’s bloodiest battle in decades remains unclear.

Top commanders of Ukrainian fighters who had fought their last stand at the Azovstal Steelworks in the port city were still at the plant, according to the leader of the pro-Russian separatists who control the area, Denis Pushilin, was told by the local news outlet DNA as quoted saying on Wednesday.

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Ukrainian officials have declined to comment publicly on the fighters’ fate.

“The state is making every effort to carry out the rescue of our service personnel,” said military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzaynik at a press conference. “Any information to the public could jeopardize this process.”

The Russian news agency TASS quoted Pushilin on Thursday as saying that more than half of the Ukrainian fighters in the steelworks have since left.

Ukraine and Russia have given conflicting statements. Ukraine on Tuesday confirmed the surrender of more than 250 people but did not say how many were still inside.

Russia on Wednesday said another 694 fighters had surrendered, bringing the total to 959. His Defense Ministry released videos of Ukrainian fighters being treated in hospital after their surrender in Azovstal.

Mariupol is the largest city Russia has conquered to date, allowing Russian President Vladimir Putin to claim a rare victory in the invasion that began on February 24.

Since then, Russian attacks have reduced cities and communities to rubble, killing thousands and fleeing more than six million to neighboring countries.

Moscow has focused its recent offensives on the southeast after retreating from Kyiv, where in another sign of normalization the United States said it had resumed operations at its embassy on Wednesday. Canada, Britain and others have recently resumed embassy operations.

Moscow, which denies attacking civilians, says it is involved in a “special military operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” its neighbor. The West and Kyiv call this a false pretext for an invasion.

Buses carrying members of Ukraine’s armed forces, who surrendered after weeks of entrenchment at Azovstal Steelworks, drive away under escort of pro-Russian military amid Ukraine-Russia conflict in Mariupol, Ukraine May 17, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

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Donbas attacks

On the battlefront, Russian forces continued their main offensive, attempting to seize more territory in the eastern Donbass region that Moscow claims on behalf of the separatists.

Ukraine’s General Staff said in a statement Thursday that Russia’s attacks were focused on the Donetsk region. Russian forces “suffered significant casualties” around Sloviansk north of Donetsk.

The police said on Thursday via telegram that two children had been killed in a direct hit on a residential building in the Donetsk city of Lyman.

Ukrainian forces shelled a border village in Russia’s western Kursk region at dawn Thursday, killing at least one civilian, regional governor Roman Starovoit said.

Serhiy Gaidai, governor of East Luhansk region, said on Telegram that four people were killed and three wounded in the shelling of the city of Sievierodonetsk and urged people to seek shelter if they decide not to leave. He said earlier this week there were protests by families of forcibly mobilized people in the Russian-held parts of Luhansk.

Reuters could not verify the reports.

Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Oleksiy Arestovych said Ukrainian saboteurs blew up railroad tracks in front of an armored train carrying Russian troops in the occupied southern city of Melitopol. Continue reading

“The partisans got it, although they didn’t blow up the armored train themselves,” he said in a video posted to social media, contradicting an earlier statement by Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces that the train had been blown up.

Finland and Sweden formally applied for NATO membership on Wednesday. Russia had threatened retaliation, but Putin said on Monday NATO membership was not an issue unless the alliance sent more troops or weapons there.

However, Russia could halt gas supplies to Finland this week, Finland’s state-owned utility Gasum said.

The European Commission has announced a €210 billion ($220 billion) plan for Europe to end its dependence on Russian oil, gas and coal by 2027. read more

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Reporting by Natalia Zinets and Max Hunder in Kyiv and a Reuters journalist in Mariupol; Additional reporting by Reuters offices; writing by Stephen Coates; Edited by Richard Pullin and Nick Macfie

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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