kraine has launched a rescue mission to evacuate civilians hiding from Russian rocket attacks in a vast steelworks with the last resistance fighters defending Mariupol.
“An operation is planned today to get civilians out of the plant,” President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office said without expanding on any other details.
Russia did not immediately comment on the Ukrainian remarks.
About 1,000 troops and as many civilians, including the elderly, women and children, are believed to be sheltered in the labyrinth tunnel network beneath the steelworks.
It comes days after Russia claimed victory in Mariupol as it announced a ceasefire around the factory to allow civilians to evacuate.
The Mariupol city council has said about 100,000 residents across the city are “in mortal danger” because of Russian shelling and unsanitary conditions, and described a “catastrophic” shortage of drinking water and food.
In its latest intelligence update on the war in Ukraine, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said there had been heavy fighting around the cities of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk in the Luhansk region of the country.
But the MoD said Russia’s push to seize control of the eastern part of Ukraine – now the main focus of the conflict – was meeting “strong Ukrainian resistance”.
“The Battle of Donbas remains Russia’s main strategic focus, in order to achieve its stated aim of securing control over the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts,” the MoD said.
“In these oblasts fighting has been particularly heavy around Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, with an attempted advance south from Izium towards Slovyansk.
“Due to strong Ukrainian resistance, Russian territorial gains have been limited and achieved at significant cost to Russian forces.”