Ukraine has vowed to “fight absolutely to the end” in Mariupol, where the port’s last known pocket of resistance is hiding in a sprawling, tunnel-riddled steelworks.
Rhyme Minister Denys Shmyhal said Ukrainians would continue fighting in the devastated city as Russian rockets and missiles also pounded other parts of the country.
Witnesses reported multiple explosions in the city of Lviv early Monday.
Lviv and the rest of western Ukraine were less affected by the fighting than other parts of the country, and the city was considered a relatively safe haven.
Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said five rockets hit the city and that emergency services responded.
The fall of Mariupol, reduced to rubble in a seven-week siege, would give Moscow its greatest victory of the war. But a few thousand fighters, by the Russian estimate, are holding on to the massive four-square-mile Azovstal Steelworks.
“We will absolutely fight to the end in this war to win,” Mr Shmyhal vowed on Sunday.
He said Ukraine is ready to end the war through diplomacy if possible, “but we have no intention of surrendering.”
Many Mariupol civilians, including children, are taking refuge in the Azovstal plant, Mikhail Vershinin, head of the city police patrol, told Mariupol TV. He said they are hiding from Russian shelling and from any occupying Russian soldiers.
The capture of the city on the Sea of Azov would free up Russian troops for the expected new offensive to seize control of the Donbas in Ukraine’s industrial east.
It would also allow Russia to fully secure a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014, and deprive Ukraine of a key port and its valuable industrial assets.
Russia is keen to seize the Donbass, where Moscow-backed separatists already control some areas, as its attempt to take the capital Kyiv failed.
“We are doing everything to ensure the defense of eastern Ukraine,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in his late night address to the nation.
As for besieged Mariupol, there seemed little hope of a military rescue by Ukrainian forces any time soon.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Sunday the Ukrainian troops and civilians who remained there were virtually surrounded.
He said they “continue their fight” but that the city is virtually non-existent due to the massive destruction.
The relentless bombing and street fighting in Mariupol has killed at least 21,000 people, according to Ukrainian estimates.
A maternity hospital was hit by a deadly Russian airstrike in the first weeks of the war, and about 300 people were reportedly killed in the bombing of a theater where civilians were taking shelter.
An estimated 100,000 people remained in the city out of a pre-war population of 450,000, trapped without food, water, heat or electricity.
Drone footage transmitted by Russia’s RIA-Novosti news agency on Sunday showed miles of destroyed buildings and the steel complex on the outskirts of the city, from which plumes of smoke were billowing.
Deputy Defense Minister of Ukraine Hanna Malyar described Mariupol as a “shield in defense of Ukraine”.
Russian forces, meanwhile, carried out airstrikes near Kyiv and elsewhere in an apparent attempt to weaken Ukraine’s military capacity ahead of the expected attack on Donbass.
After the humiliating sinking of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet flagship last week in a missile attack that Ukrainians praised, the Kremlin has vowed to step up attacks on the capital.
Russia said Sunday it had attacked a munitions factory near Kyiv with precision-guided missiles overnight, the third such attack in as many days.
Explosions were also reported in Kramatorsk, the eastern city where rockets earlier this month killed at least 57 people at a train station crowded with civilians trying to evacuate ahead of the Russian offensive.
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/remaining-ukrainian-troops-encircled-in-mariupol-but-vowing-to-fight-absolutely-to-the-end-41562890.html Remaining Ukrainian troops ‘circled in Mariupol’ but vowed to ‘fight absolutely to the end’