“Most likely, all 60 people who remain under the rubble are now dead,” Gov. Serhiy Haidai wrote on the Telegram messaging app. Russian shelling also killed two boys, ages 11 and 14, in the nearby town of Pryvillia, he said. Since failing to capture Ukraine’s capital, Russia has focused its offensive in the Donbas, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting since 2014 and occupying some territory. The largest European conflict since World War II has developed into a punishing war of attrition due to the Ukrainian military’s unexpectedly effective defense. To demonstrate success, the Russian military worked to complete its conquest of the besieged port city of Mariupol, which has been under relentless assault since the start of the war, in time for Victory Day celebrations on Monday. A sprawling seaside steel mill is the only part of the city not under Russian control. All the remaining women, children and older civilians who had been sheltering with Ukrainian fighters in the Azovstal plant were evacuated Saturday. The troops still inside have refused to surrender; hundreds are believed to be wounded. After rescuers evacuated the last civilians Saturday, Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address that the focus would turn to extracting the wounded and medics. Zelenskyy said in his nightly address that work would also continue Sunday on securing humanitarian corridors for residents of Mariupol and surrounding towns to leave.
The Ukrainian government has been reaching out to international organizations to try to secure safe passage for the estimated 2,000 fighters remaining in the plant’s underground tunnels and bunkers. Zelenskyy acknowledged the difficulty, but said: “We are not losing hope, we are not stopping. Every diplomatic day we are looking for some option that might work.” The Ukrainian leader was expected to hold online talks Sunday with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden and leaders from other Group of Seven countries. The meeting is partly meant to display unity among Western allies on Victory in Europe Day, which marks Nazi Germany’s 1945 surrender.
Elsewhere on Ukraine’s coast, explosions echoed again Sunday across the major Black Sea port of Odesa, which Russia struck with six cruise missiles on Saturday. Authorities offered no immediate damage reports.
The Odesa city council said four of the missiles Saturday launched a furniture company, with the shock waves and debris badly damaging high-rise apartment buildings. The other two hit the Odesa airport, where a previous Russian attack destroyed the runway.
Ukrainian leaders warned that attacks would only kill in the lead-up to Victory Day, the May 9 celebrates Nazi Germany’s defeat in 1945 with military parades. Russian President Vladimir Putin is believed to want to proclaim some kind of triumph in Ukraine when he addresses the troops on Red Square on Monday.