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Russia Sets another Deadline for Ukrainian Forces Trapped in Mariupol to Surrender
By Staff, Agencies
Russia has given the Ukrainian soldiers still holding out in the strategic southern port city of Mariupol a new ultimatum to surrender, as Moscow pushes a new military offensive in Ukraine's east.
"Russia's armed forces, based purely on humanitarian principles, again propose that the fighters of nationalist battalions and foreign mercenaries cease their military operations from 1400 Moscow time on April 20 and lay down arms," Russia's Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.
The ministry renewed its deadline after an earlier ultimatum lapsed, saying not a single Ukrainian soldier had laid down their weapons.
Thousands of Russian troops backed by artillery and rocket barrages are advancing in what Ukrainian officials have called the Battle for the Donbass.
Ukrainian commanders have vowed not to surrender and Ukraine's general staff said earlier in the day that fighting was going on at the Azovstal steel plant while Russian forces attempted an offensive near the northeastern city of Kharkiv.
Late on Tuesday, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said in a post on his Twitter account that Russia was hitting the steel plant, the main remaining stronghold in Mariupol, with bunker-buster bombs.
Meanwhile, a commander for the Ukrainian marines fighting in Mariupol has warned that his forces are "facing last days, if not hours," appealing for extraction.
Serhiy Volyna, from the 36th Separate Marine Brigade, made the remarks in a Facebook post published early Wednesday, as he sheltered at the besieged Azovstal factory.
"The enemy is outnumbering us 10 to one," he said, adding, "We appeal and plead to all world leaders to help us. We ask them to use the procedure of extraction and take us to the territory of a third-party state."
Volyna said the Russians had the "advantage in the air, in artillery, in their forces on land, in equipment, and in tanks."
Since the launch of the military campaign in late February, some of the heaviest fighting between the two sides has been focused around Mariupol, located in southeastern Ukraine and on the northern coast of the strategic Sea of Azov.
Mariupol has been besieged by Russian troops since March 1, but an unclear number of Ukrainian soldiers trapped in the city are still holding out against the Russian troops despite overwhelming odds.
The fall of Mariupol will be a major blow to Kiev, strategically and symbolically, since Moscow will then be able to open a land route to the Crimean Peninsula, which joined Russia in 2014.
Moscow has repeatedly denied targeting civilians during the offensive.
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