Russian forces hit besieged steel plant in southern Ukraine

Russian forces hit besieged steel plant in southern Ukraine

Russian forces have called in air strikes on a besieged steel factory in the southern city of Mariupol as part of an assault meant to dislodge the last Ukrainian troops holding out in the strategic port, Ukrainian officials said.

Russian forces have continued to attack the besieged Azovstal plant, hitting it with air strikes, including by long-range aircraft, Oleksandr Shtupun, spokesman for the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff, said on Sunday.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin had given an order not to send troops in, but instead to blockade the plant last week, but the assault resumed Saturday after the Ukrainian soldiers refused to surrender.

Russia is trying to take Mariupol for nearly two months, a city that would deprive Ukraine of a vital port, free Russian troops to fight elsewhere, and establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula.

Some 2,000 troops have been fighting to hold on to the last remaining Ukrainian outpost in the city, the Azovstal steel plant, which has civilians taking refuge in its labyrinthine tunnel system.

Mr Shtupun said Russia pressed its attacks in the eastern Donbas region, intensifying offensive and assault operations towards the cities of Popasna and Siverodonetsk in Luhansk and Kharkiv in Donetsk.

Luhansk region governor Serhiy Haidai said on Sunday that eight people were killed and two others were wounded in a Russian barrage on Saturday.

The Russians are trying to gain full control over Ukraine's eastern industrial heartland, Donbas, as the Russians continue their offensive.

The Russians have also shelled the Dnipro region west of Donbas, where at least one person was killed by a Russian missile, according to Dnipro regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko.

The British Ministry of Defence said on Sunday Ukrainian forces had been able to repel numerous attacks in the past week.

The ministry said that Ukrainian resistance has been strong across all axes and inflicted significant cost on Russian forces despite Russia making some territorial gains.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will meet with two top American officials in Kyiv on Sunday to discuss Ukraine's call for more powerful weapons.

Mr Zelenskyy gave few details about the logistics of his upcoming talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, but he said he expects to see results - not just presents or cakes, but we are expecting specific things and specific weapons. It would be the first high-level US trip since the war began on February 24.

During his visit to Poland in March, Mr Blinken stepped onto Ukrainian soil briefly to meet with the country's foreign minister.

The White House hasn't confirmed any travel plans for Mr Blinken and Mr Austin.

The Pentagon and the State Department didn't want to say anything.