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A Ukrainian marine commander in Mariupol has made what he described as his troops’ “last address to the world” as they try to resist overwhelming Russian forces in the city.
They were outnumbered and running out of supplies, Major Serhiy Volyna said.
A Russian deadline for the surrender of Ukrainian forces has passed with no sign that the troops have complied.
The last holdouts are sheltering in the city’s huge Azovstal steel plant, reportedly with 1,000 civilians.
Kyiv said there was a tentative deal to rescue some civilians from the city.
The city’s mayor, Vadym Boichenko, told national TV that Ukraine had hoped to send 90 buses to evacuate about 6,000 people on Wednesday. He said around 100,000 people are trapped in Mariupol.
However, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko subsequently said that fewer buses than planned were able to reach trapped civilians and not many were evacuated.
“People of course gathered at the agreed meeting points, but few of them got onto the buses,” he told Reuters news agency without giving specific figures.
The Azovstal Iron and Steel Works – a massive, four sq-mile (10 sq km) plant in the south-east of the city – has become the last centre of the Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol.
It is unclear how many Ukrainian troops remain in the city, but in a video message sent to the BBC, Maj Volyna, said around 500 injured troops were being cared for at the steel plant.
Maj Volyna, who leads the 36th marine battalion, said his troops were running low on supplies and that the video marked “our last address to the world. It may be our last one ever”.
He said that Russian forces outnumbered his own by “dozens of times,” and that while Ukrainian morale remains high, Moscow’s forces “prevail in the air, in artillery, in ground troops, and in machines and tanks”.
As Russian forces advanced slowly into the heart of Mariupol, the sprawling Azovstal complex became a home to thousands of Ukrainian soldiers, including fighters from the Azov battalion – a controversial national guard unit with links to the far-right.
The site is a mass of tunnels and workshops, and provides a natural advantage to defenders.
Yan Gagin, an official with the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic, told Russian state news network RIA Novosti over the weekend that there is “basically another city” beneath the plant.
Russia has been bombarding the factory with artillery and air raids, and Moscow has issued two demands for the troops to surrender. An advisor to President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia is targeting the defenders with bunker busters – colossal bombs designed to penetrate thick armour and kill targets underground.
Image source, Reuters
This is the second ultimatum Ukrainian troops at the plant have faced this week. Despite this, and the vicious nature of the Russian siege, Ukraine’s defence ministry said not a single soldier surrendered when a similar ultimatum lapsed on Monday.
Are you in Mariupol – or do you have relatives or friends who remain in the city? If it’s safe:
Deputy Mayor Orlov warned that basic supplies at the plant have almost run out.
“They have an absolute lack of everything. A lack of water, food, medicines, help, and Russia totally blocks everything, any humanitarian help or evacuation,” he told the BBC’s Newshour programme.
Olena Nikulina’s cousin is fighting with Ukrainian forces in Mariupol. She said her last contact with him had been on 8 March when he told her his unit had “very little food and medical supplies – and it’s harder and harder to treat wounded soldiers”.
Image source, Reuters
Ukrainian officials say around 100,000 civilians remain in the city, which has been almost totally levelled by the Russian bombardment.
Several previous attempts to organise humanitarian corridors from the city have failed, with both Russia and Ukraine accusing each other of bad faith in negotiations and refusals to guarantee compliance with ceasefires. But Ms Vereshchuk said Moscow has agreed to allow 6,000 people to evacuate the city on Wednesday.
Ukraine has previously alleged that Russia has been forcibly evacuating thousands of Ukrainian civilians from the city into Russia.
Why has Russia concentrated on Mariupol?
US defence officials said on Tuesday that around 76 battalion tactical groups – combined Russian armour, infantry and air defence units – are operating inside Ukraine, with around 12 of these focused on the assault in Mariupol.
If the city were to fall it would free up around 10,000 troops to take part in the refocused Russian assault on the Donbas region, and allow Moscow to link up its forces on the annexed Crimean Peninsula with separatist forces in the east.
If Mariupol was seized, Russia would also end up with full control of the Sea of Azov, cutting off its maritime trade and further isolating it from the world.
The fall of Mariupol would also offer President Vladimir Putin a major propaganda opportunity.
His forces have only captured one major Ukrainian city – Kherson – and seizing Mariupol would enable the Kremlin to show its population that Russia was achieving its aims and making progress.
Capturing the Azov battalion would also allow Mr Putin to play into his baseless narrative that the Ukrainian government has been overrun by “Nazis”.
Original Post: bbc.co.uk
Pennsylvania Primary: Trump-backed ‘Dr Oz’ in Cliffhanger Vote Count
Image source, Reuters
A Trump-backed celebrity doctor’s campaign to run as the next Republican senator for Pennsylvania has come down to a nail-biting conclusion.
Mehmet Oz, a surgeon best known for his appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show, is facing a cliffhanger vote count after the party primary.
He was neck and neck with former hedge fund executive David McCormick.
The race is being closely watched as a test of former President Donald Trump’s hold over the Republican party.
The contest in this key presidential swing state is one of a number taking place across the country to determine who will stand for office in the midterm elections in November.
The midterms fall halfway through a president’s term in office. They decide who controls the two chambers which make up Congress – the Senate and the House of Representatives.
At present, the Democratic Party controls both chambers, but by very slim majorities. And historically, the party that holds the White House has tended to suffer losses in the midterms.
The primaries decide which party’s candidates will run against each other in the midterms, and their election will play an important part in determining the rest of US President Joe Biden’s presidency.
Five states held primary elections on Tuesday, making it the busiest date on the 2022 midterms calendar so far. Here are some of the projected results:
Earlier this month, Mr Trump’s pick for the Ohio Senate primary cruised to victory against his opponents. But Pennsylvania’s primary has gone down to the wire.
Despite Mr Trump’s endorsement of Mehmet Oz, the race stayed in a three-way dead heat until polls closed.
The Republican contest was shaken up by a late surge from right-wing commentator Kathy Barnette.
But Mr McCormick came from behind, with the race narrow enough to be in recount territory.
Pennsylvania primary marks test of Trump’s strength
By Nomia Iqbal, BBC News
Dr Oz arrived at the venue and did a thumbs up to us and said he was feeling good. Taking to the stage he thanked everyone who supported him and made it clear he wasn’t conceding.
He said victory would be his in the end. But his closest rival Dave McCormick – who wasn’t backed by Mr Trump – said the same thing.
The results are still being counted but at the moment it’s within the margins for a recount. The full count of the actual ballots could take days.
It feels a lot like 2020 when we were here for the presidential race. In the end Pennsylvania projected for Biden taking him over the threshold.
Tonight was a critical test of the former President Trump’s ability to back winners… He wants to use the Primaries to prove his dominance over the Republican Party.
Mr Trump really got behind Dr Oz – whether his base did is yet to be decided.
The eventual Republican winner will take on Lt Gov John Fetterman, who easily won the Democratic Senate nomination on Tuesday night – two days after announcing he had suffered a stroke.
On Monday, the left-wing Democrat’s team said he had undergone surgery to implant a pacemaker with a defibrillator.
Mr Fetterman, a Harvard-educated former mayor who sported hoodie sweatshirts instead of suits on the campaign trail, remained in hospital on the night of his election victory, with his wife speaking at a campaign event in his place.
Image source, Twitter/@JohnFetterman
In a White House statement on Tuesday night, Mr Biden congratulated Mr Fetterman and argued that the Republican candidates were “too extreme”.
But a controversy that dogged Mr Fetterman in his primary campaign is certain to be raised by Republicans during the general election.
In 2013, during Mr Fetterman’s second term as mayor of Braddock, a town of around 2,000 outside Pittsburgh, he pursued an innocent black jogger who he wrongly thought had been firing a gun near his home.
Mr Fetterman, who is a hulking 6ft 8in and was armed with a shotgun during the confrontation, has refused to apologise for the incident.
Original Article: bbc.co.uk
Ukraine War: Snake Island and Battle for Control in Black Sea
Image source, PLANET LABS PBC
Right from the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Snake Island was given a vital and almost mythical status in the war. This unremarkable, rocky outcrop in the Black Sea was seized by Russia and has become a battleground of strategic value.
Russia claims Ukraine has sustained disastrous losses in a failed bid to recapture the island, including special forces, warplanes, helicopters and drones. Ukraine insists it has limited its campaign to attacking facilities on the island and boats.
The battle is not over and Russia is repeatedly trying to reinforce its exposed garrison, says UK defence ministry intelligence.
Snake or Zmiinyi Island is a fraction of a square kilometre in size and there are no more snakes to speak of. But there can be no doubt of its importance for control of the western Black Sea.
“If Russian troops succeed in occupying Snake Island and set up their long-range air-defence systems, they will control the sea, land and air in the north-west part of the Black Sea and in the south of Ukraine,” Ukrainian military expert Oleh Zhdanov told the BBC.
Image source, UKRAINIAN GROUND FORCES
That is why Russia’s flagship Moskva sailed there within hours of the start of the war, telling Ukrainian soldiers on the island to give themselves up: “I suggest you lay down your weapons and surrender to avoid bloodshed and needless casualties. Otherwise, you will be bombed,” said a Russian officer.
“Russian warship get lost,” came the now legendary response, although in far cruder language. The island was seized but weeks later the Moskva was sunk.
Losing the Moskva means Russia’s supply ships to the island now have minimal protection, says the UK, although, if it can consolidate its position, then it could dominate a large part of the Black Sea.
Threat to Ukraine, its neighbours and Nato
A reinforced Russian presence could be disastrous for Ukraine, strategically as well as economically.
Ukraine has already had to close its port at Odesa, suspending vital grain exports, but Mr Zhdanov fears the island could also be used as a second frontline.
“If the Russians succeed in installing long-range air defence systems then they will be able to defend their squadron, which can reach Ukraine’s coastline.”
It would also give Russian troops the chance to break into Transnistria, Moldova’s breakaway territory under Russian control that lies next-door to Ukraine and not far from Odesa.
However, Snake Island is a mere 45km (28 miles) away from the coast of Romania, which is part of the West’s Nato alliance.
UK naval analyst Jonathan Bentham believes a Russian S-400 air missile system on the island would be a “big game-changer”. If Russia were able to deploy a missile system, not only would Odesa come under threat, but Nato’s southern flank would be endangered, too, warns Romanian historian Dorin Dobrincu.
“This is very important for the Romanian government and people but also for the entire alliance. Russia would have the capacity to destroy cities and military capability in the east of our territory.”
Nato reinforced Romania’s borders from the start of the war, sending in Belgian and French forces.
But there are major economic risks, too, for Romania. Snake Island lies close to the mouth of the River Danube, which delineates Romania’s border with Ukraine. Romania’s Black Sea port of Constanta is not far south and has been taking in container ships that are no longer able to sail to Odesa.
War in Ukraine: More coverage
Russian military-political analyst Alexander Mikhailov said troops on Snake Island could be in a position to control traffic into the north-western Black Sea and the Danube delta – the gateway to south-eastern Europe. “If there’s a military base or military infrastructure, it would be possible to block ships that enter the river as well as leave,” he told Russian media.
Romania’s Euro-Atlantic Resilience Centre believes Russia may decide to annex the island and control as many Black Sea shipping routes as possible towards the Bosphorus in Turkey.
Historically, Snake Island was Romanian territory until it was ceded in 1948 to the Soviet Union, which used it as a radar base. As Romania came under Soviet influence until 1989, Bucharest accepted the arrangement.
Ukraine took control with the fall of the communism and eventually in 2009 the International Court of Justice drew up the island’s territorial limits, giving Romania almost 80% of the Black Sea continental shelf near the island, and Ukraine the rest.
Snake Island is not just of strategic use, because this part of the Black Sea is rich in hydrocarbon resources – so The Hague ruling means both countries possess reserves of petroleum and gas.
It may seem to be a small clump of rock with little obvious value, but its fate is a major element of Russia’s war.
Image source, Ukraine Postal Service
Original Source: bbc.co.uk
Disabled Children ‘dumped’ in Ukrainian Institutions
There are claims that thousands of disabled Ukrainian children have been forgotten and abandoned in institutions that can’t look after them.
The human rights organisation, Disability Rights International, has carried out an investigation and found children with severe disabilities tied to beds in overrun children’s homes unable to cope.
The BBC has been given exclusive access to an institution in western Ukraine, where disabled children from the east have been left by their carers who fled to neighbouring countries.
Reporting by Dan Johnson
Filmed by Jonathan Dunstan
Produced by Ruth Clegg and Natalie Higgins
Original Post: bbc.co.uk
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