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Ending weeks of standoff, Russia takes key port but sees setbacks elsewhere

Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Moscow redirected its efforts last month to the Donbas after a failed attempt to capture Kyiv, the capital, in another humiliation for Putin.

But more than any other battle in the war, it was the fight for Mariupol that captured the world’s attention and came to embody the cruelty of the war: thousands dead, tens of thousands displaced, roads battered, houses destroyed, failed cease-fires and countless wounded.

It has been more than two months since as many as 2,000 Ukrainian fighters accompanied by civilians took refuge in the vast Azovstal steel plant and its sprawling network of underground passages. Russian forces surrounded the facility, cutting off escape routes, and bombarded it mercilessly.

Even as Russia declared that it had taken control of the city, the Ukrainian fighters refused to leave.

Most civilians who were taking shelter in the plant were believed to have been evacuated earlier this month under a deal worked out by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

On the diplomatic front, Zelenskyy has welcomed the moves by Finland and Sweden to join NATO.

Indeed, the goal of membership in the alliance is enshrined in Ukraine’s own constitution — a major source of anger and alarm in Moscow — though Ukrainian officials have indicated that it could be subject to negotiation as part of a settlement to end the war.

In addition to Finland and Sweden, Georgia — like Ukraine, a former Soviet republic — has also expressed a desire to join NATO despite Moscow’s vociferous objections.

NATO and U.S. officials have voiced confidence that Finland and Sweden would be accepted into the alliance despite reservations from Turkey, a NATO member, which objects to the presence in the two Nordic nations of Kurdish groups critical of Turkey’s treatment of its Kurdish minority.


In other developments Monday, senior U.S. Defense official said that Russian forces fired a “half dozen” missiles toward Lviv in western Ukraine, hitting a military training complex near there but with only “minor” damage to a few buildings and no known casualties.

The missiles may have been fired from a submarine in the Black Sea, the official said. Lviv, a short distance from Ukraine’s border with Poland, has been spared most of the heaviest attacks but is located strategically along supply routes taking weapons from the U.S. and other NATO countries to the front lines.

The official also said that 74 of the 90 Howitzer artillery pieces supplied by the U.S. are now “in the fight.” He quoted Ukrainian military officials saying that the howitzers have made a “very effective difference” in the Donbas campaign.

“The systems are helping them regain some momentum and take back territory,” the official said.


(Los Angeles Times staff writers Tracy Wilkinson in Washington and Emily Baumgaertner in Los Angeles contributed to this report.)

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