Russian troops launched an attack on Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant on Saturday, aiming to eliminate the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in southern port city, NPR reports.
This renewed assault comes as a reversal of earlier Russian policy. On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory in Mariupol and ordered his defense minister to seal off the steel plant "so that not even a fly comes through" instead of storming it.
Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said Russian forces were launching air strikes against the Azovstal plant and appeared to be preparing to storm it. Around 2,000 Ukrainian troops and 1,000 civilians reportedly remain holed up in the sprawling Azovstal facility.
Ukrainian sources claim that at least 20,000 people have been killed in Russia's siege of Mariupol. On Thursday and Friday, Ukrainian officials said they located two mass graves in villages outside Mariupol. The first, located about 12 miles outside of Mariupol in Russian-occupied Manhush, could contain up to 9,000 corpses. The second was found seven miles east of Mariupol in the village of Vynohradne, CNBC reported.