Ukrainian forces fought village by village Saturday to hold back a Russian advance through the country's east, while the UN worked to broker a civilian evacuation from the last defensive stronghold in the bombed-out ruins of the port city of Mariupol. An estimated 100,000 civilians remain in the city, and up to 1,000 are living beneath a sprawling Soviet-era steel plant, according to Ukrainian officials. Ukraine has not said how many fighters are also in the plant, the only part of Mariupol not occupied by Russian forces, but Russia put the number at about 2,000, the AP reports.
Russian state media outlets reported Saturday that 25 civilians had been evacuated from the Azovstal steelworks, though there was no confirmation from the UN. Russia's RIA Novosti news agency said 19 adults and six children were brought out but gave no further details. An official with the Azov Regiment, the Ukrainian unit defending the plant, said 20 civilians were evacuated during a cease-fire; it was not clear if he was referring to the same group as the Russian news reports. "These are women and children," Sviatoslav Palamar said in a video posted on the regiment's Telegram channel. He called for the evacuation of the wounded: “We don’t know why they are not taken away, and their evacuation to the territory controlled by Ukraine is not being discussed."
Video and images from inside the plant, shared with the AP by two Ukrainian women who said their husbands are among the fighters refusing to surrender there, showed unidentified men with stained bandages; others had open wounds or amputated limbs. A skeleton medical staff was treating at least 600 wounded people, said the women, who identified their husbands as members of the Azov Regiment of Ukraine's National Guard. Some of the wounds were rotting with gangrene, they said. In the video the men said that they eat once daily and share as little as 50 ounces of water a day among four people. One shirtless man appeared to be in pain from multiple wounds said, "I want to tell everyone who sees this: If you will not stop this here, in Ukraine, it will go further, to Europe." AP could not independently verify the date and location of the video.
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