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Russia declares final victory at steel plant in Mariupol and fights for more territory in eastern Ukraine

Patrick J. McDonnell and Henry Chu, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

KYIV, Ukraine — With its grip tightened along Ukraine’s southern coast, including full control of the steel plant that held the world’s attention for months, Russia redoubled its assault Friday on the eastern industrial heartland known as the Donbas.

At least a dozen people were killed and scores of homes destroyed in the area of Severodonetsk, the regional governor, Serhiy Haidai, said on social media. The city is the easternmost point of the Donbas still in Ukrainian hands.

The nearby city of Lysychansk also came under sustained fire, according to Ukrainian military officials, who said their troops had repelled a series of attacks in the Donbas over the last 24 hours, destroying 14 armored vehicles and shooting down a Russian drone.

In a separate airstrike, about 120 miles west in the Kharkiv region, a Russian missile destroyed the newly renovated Palace of Culture in the city of Lozova.

Russian military authorities also made their biggest victory of the war official on Friday, announcing that Russian forces in the southern port city of Mariupol had “completely liberated” the sprawling Azovstal steelworks, where thousands of Ukrainian fighters had hunkered down for more than two months in a long and bloody standoff.

Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said that all Ukrainian fighters had been removed from the underground bunkers of the factory, according to Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti.

 

The last group of 531 Ukrainian soldiers at the steel factory surrendered Friday, bringing the total evacuated since Monday to 2,439, according to the ministry.

There was no immediate confirmation from Ukraine.

Earlier Friday, Maj. Denys Prokopenko, the Ukrainian commander of the Azov regiment that led the defense of Mariupol, posted a video statement saying that senior military leadership had issued an order to stop defending the city in order to save the “lives and health” of servicemen.

“I hope soon relatives and the whole of Ukraine will be able to bury their soldiers with honors,” Prokopenko said in a video posted on Telegram.

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