Fears for Ukrainian defenders as fighting rages

Fears for Ukrainian defenders as fighting rages

Mariupol's mayor said he lost contact with the city's last Ukrainian defenders amid heavy fighting at the Azovstal steel plant.

The final pocket of Ukrainian resistance has held out for weeks in the crucial southeastern port city, which is otherwise under Russian control. A group of evacuees from the site reached safety on Tuesday, but fears have been growing for those still trapped after Ukrainian officials said Russian forces have launched a fresh attack on the stronghold.

Heavy fighting continues in our fortress. There are still hundreds of peaceful civilians there. There are more than 30 children who wait to be rescued, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said on Ukrainian television.

Mariupol has been besieged for months, with swaths of the city reduced to rubble while its remaining residents suffered without aid. Ukrainian forces have been holed up in the sprawling steel plant alongside civilians who have been sheltering from Russian bombardment.

There is no connection with the guys today, so there is no way to reach out to them to understand what is happening, whether or not they are safe or not, Boichenko said.

We pray for our heroes defenders and thank them for the heroic actions they are doing today for our entire country. He added that they restrained the enemy and gave us more time to prepare.