Putin’s Ukraine Victory – Russian Assault Azovstal Steel Works In Heavy Fighting: The Russian military’s renewed assault on the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold in Mariupol at the Azovstal Steel Works has perhaps now entered a final stage. Behind massive artillery and airstrikes, Russian troops have now entered the plant’s compound.
A Ukrainian military spokesman released a statement that said that “Russian forces “are focusing their efforts on blocking and destroying Ukrainian units in the Azovstal steelworks.”
“With the support of aircraft, the enemy resumed the offensive in order to take control of the plant,” the military added in its statement.
Despite brief respites in the shelling to allow civilians to evacuate the sprawling steel plant, hundreds remain as the Russian military intensifies its efforts to take the plant. Russian state-run television showed a video of massive explosions inside the 4.2-square-mile plant. The Ukrainian newspaper The Kyiv Independent was the first to report that the Russian assault had broken through into the steel plant.
Denys Prokopenko, the commander of the Ukrainian Azov regiment, said that the Russian assault had finally broken into the compound as any evacuation of the remaining civilians had been halted.
Prokopenko said that the Russian assault had occurred for two days, and “there are heavy, bloody battles” ongoing inside the steelworks. He added in a post on his Telegram channel app that “I am proud of my soldiers who are making superhuman efforts to contain the pressure of the enemy… the situation is extremely difficult.”
At the outset of the battle for the steelworks plant, there were an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian troops and about 1,000 civilians sheltered in underground bunkers inside the plant. After limited evacuations of the civilians, there are about only 200 left; the number of military personnel remaining is unknown.
Russia has promised to conduct a ceasefire on Thursday between 0800-1800 hours to allow civilians to evacuate the steel plant safely.
Ukraine AP Report – Mariupol Theater Bombing Killed 600
A new report from the Associated Press provides detailed information on the deadly Russian bombing of the Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theater in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 16. The article has floor plans for all three stories of the theater and accounts from many of the survivors.
More than 1,200 civilians were packed into the theater, which had been designated as a shelter for the city’s civilian population as the Russians began their assault on Mariupol. The people painted the word “children” in Cyrillic on the building, clearly marking it as a civilian shelter. The Russians subsequently claimed that Ukrainian forces destroyed the building and then changed their story that the Ukrainian troops used the theater as a military compound.
It wasn’t a random attack; it was targeted as part of the Russian playbook in Ukraine to sap the will of the civilian population to resist. The Russians targeted and destroyed a nearby maternity hospital six days before March 9. Witnesses reported seeing a Russian aircraft close by and then followed by a massive explosion. About 100 people in line for a mobile kitchen outside the theater were instantly incinerated.
Ukrainian officials were only able to document about 200 survivors and had initially put the death toll at about 300. Now that number has likely doubled.
Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He has served as a US Army Special Forces NCO, and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for more than 10 years, and his work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.