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05 February, 2023
 
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Russia renews surrender deadline at Azovstal

Azov fighters claim unarmed civilians also holding out, locals dismiss claim pointing to ‘fake video’

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Russian troops gave Ukrainian fighters holding out in the basements of Azovstal a fresh ultimatum to surrender on Wednesday, as conflicting reports made it unclear whether unarmed civilians could also be inside in Mariupol’s steel plant.

Kiev officials told western media on Tuesday that Russians were dropping bunker buster bombs onto Mariupol’s vast Azovstal steel plant, where the city council claimed over 1000 civilians were hiding in underground shelters along with nationalist fighters.

"The world watches the murder of children online and remains silent," adviser Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter.

But Moscow continued to deny targeting civilians, with Russian official at the United Nations, Dmitry Polyansky, saying their forces opened humanitarian corridors daily but Ukrainians were reluctant to use them.

"We declare humanitarian corridors on a daily basis, [we] declare ceasefires every day, we did it even today, regarding the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, but the Ukrainian side doesn't use it. They ignore those appeals," Polyansky said.

Avgerinos told Cypriot state radio that locals in the area had dismissed reports that unarmed civilians were still in the plant, adding that an Azov video appeared to be fake

A video released by the Azov battalion, seen as Nazis by Moscow but defenders in Kiev’s eyes, purported to show people living in the underground network beneath the sprawling steel plant, where they say hundreds of women, children and elderly civilians are sheltering with diminishing supplies.

"There are lots of children in here, they're hungry. Get us out of here, we beg you. We've already cried out all the tears we have. We can't cry anymore," an unidentified woman said in the video.

Western media have been unable to independently verify where or when the video was shot.

But it remained unclear whether unarmed civilians were still in the steel plant.

Moscow said Russian troops would observe a ceasefire in the area of Azovstal while the proposal is in effect starting from 2pm Cyprus time on April 20.

Speaking to a Cypriot state radio on Wednesday morning, war correspondent Thanassis Avgerinos confirmed there were dozens of Russian vehicles on standby to take any civilians or unarmed fighters who wished to surrender.

But Avgerinos said locals in the area had dismissed reports that unarmed civilians were still in the plant, with some claiming the only ones holding out in Azovstal were fighters of the Azov battalion.

Avgerinos also pointed to reports that a person who appeared in the Azovstal video holding a baby seemed to be the same person in a Ukrainian video stunt where a woman appeared to carry out a beheading of a Russian man.

Moscow has accused the West of using Ukrainians as “cannon fodder” in a proxy war against Russia.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for a humanitarian pause in the fighting this coming weekend, when Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter, to allow civilians to escape and humanitarian aid to be delivered.

Ukrainian Azov fighters claim unarmed civilians also holding out, locals dismiss claim, war correspondent on Cypriot radio points to ‘fake video’

TAGS
Cyprus  |  Ukraine  |  Russia  |  Thanassis Avgerinos  |  Azov  |  Azovstal  |  Mariupol  |  Moscow  |  Kiev  |  war

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