Ukraine officials said Sunday Russia has launched an airstrike on the Azovstal steel factory in the besieged Southern port city of Mariupol.
Last week Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a tight blockade of the facility that Russian forces have struggled to take over from perhaps thousands of Ukraine fighters and civilians who have remained in control of the plant.
Meanwhile, The International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement Sunday that it is “deeply alarmed by the situation in Mariupol, where the population is in dire need of assistance.” The ICRC said, “Immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access is urgently required to allow for the voluntary safe passage of thousands of civilians and hundreds of wounded out of the city, including from the Azovstal plant area.”
The bombing of the factory comes as Ukraine is observing Orthodox Easter Sunday and as Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is scheduled to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital.
Zelenskyy said Ukraine “is expecting specific things and specific weapons,” as an outcome of the first official visit by U.S. government officials since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
There has been no confirmation of the trip from U.S. officials.
On Thursday, Zelenskyy meets with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Before the U.N. chief’s meeting with Zelenskyy, the secretary general is scheduled to meet with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara Monday and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow Tuesday.
British officials said Saturday that Russian troops haven’t gained significant new ground despite announcing a renewed offensive along the eastern front, while Ukraine declared a nationwide curfew ahead of Orthodox Easter on Sunday.
Ukraine said Russian forces obstructed attempts to evacuate civilians from the besieged port city of Mariupol.
"The evacuation was thwarted," Mariupol city official Petro Andryushchenko said on Telegram, adding that about 200 people gathered at the government-appointed evacuation meeting point, but that Russian forces "dispersed" them.
Other residents were told to board buses destined for Russian-controlled Dukuchayevsk, which is about 80 kilometers to the north, Andryushchenko said.
Russia fired at least six cruise missiles at the Black Sea port city of Odesa on Saturday, killing five people, Ukraine officials said. Russia’s defense ministry said its troops conducted a missile strike on a depot in Odesa that contained weapons sent to Ukrainian troops by the United States and European countries.
Ukraine officials said Saturday that 21,600 Russian troops have died in Ukraine.
President Zelenskyy renewed his call for a meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin to "put an end to the war."
“I think that whoever started this war will be able to end it," Zelenskyy said Saturday at a news conference held at a metro station in the heart of Kyiv, adding that he was "not afraid to meet" with Putin if it would lead to a peace deal between their two countries.
Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.