KYIV: Ukraine on Friday (May 20) ordered its last troops holed up in Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant to lay down their weapons, while Russia said the months-long operation to take the strategic port city is now complete.
Russia’s flattening of Mariupol has led to multiple war crimes charges, including a deadly attack on a maternity ward, and Ukraine has begun a legal settlement for captured Russian troops.
The first trial after the invasion of a Russian soldier for war crimes was nearing its climax in Kiev after 21-year-old Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin admitted to killing an unarmed civilian early in the offensive. The verdict is on Monday.
Shishimarin told the court on Friday that he was “really sorry”. But his lawyer said in the closing arguments that the young soldier was “not guilty” of first degree murder and war crimes.
As Ukrainian forces fend off the Russian offensive around Kiev, aided by a steady influx of Western weapons, both eastern Ukraine and Mariupol in the south suffered the most from a relentless ground and artillery attack.
“Russian occupation forces are firing intensely along the entire line of contact, trying to hit artillery deep into the defenses of Ukrainian troops,” Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk told reporters.
The fighting is most intense in the eastern region of Donbas, a Russian-speaking area partly controlled by pro-Kremlin separatists since 2014.
“In Donbas, the occupiers are trying to increase the pressure,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his late night video address on Thursday. “There is a hell – and that’s no exaggeration.”
In the eastern city of Severodonetsk, 12 people have also been killed and 40 injured by Russian shelling, the regional governor said.