The mayor of the destroyed Ukrainian city of Mariupol says that contact has been lost with Ukrainian forces holed up in the Azovstal steel plant amid fierce battles with Russian troops.
“Unfortunately, yes, there is heavy fighting in Azovstal today,” Vadym Boichenko tells Ukrainian television.
He says city officials had “lost contact” with Ukrainian forces inside the plant and had no way of knowing “what’s going on, whether they are safe or not.”
The Ukrainian military says that Russian forces had launched an offensive to rout troops inside Azovstal shortly after the United Nations and Red Cross confirmed that more than 100 civilians had been evacuated from the plant.
Russia confirms it was attacking Ukrainian positions at the plant with “artillery and aircraft” but earlier Wednesday the Kremlin denied Russia was storming Azovstal.
Boichenko says Russia was attacking with heavy artillery, tanks, and war planes, adding that war ships next to coastal steel works were also involved in the attack.
“There are local residents there, civilians, hundreds of them there. There are children waiting for rescue. There are more than 30 kids,” the mayor adds.
Mariupol is among the most badly hit cities of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.