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Ukraine orders end to defence of Mariupol

AFP
Saturday, May 21, 2022

KYIV: Ukraine on Friday ordered its remaining troops holed up in Mariupol’s besieged Azovstal steelworks to lay down their arms after nearly three months of desperate resistance.

Russia’s flattening of the strategic port city has drawn multiple accusations of war crimes, including a deadly attack on a maternity ward, and Ukraine has begun a reckoning for captured Russian troops.

The first post-invasion trial of a Russian soldier for war crimes neared its closely watched climax in Kyiv, after 21-year-old sergeant Vadim Shishimarin admitted to killing an unarmed civilian early in the offensive. The verdict is due on May 23.

Shishimarin told the court on Friday that he was "truly sorry" but his lawyer said in closing arguments that the young soldier was "not guilty" of premeditated murder and war crimes.

While Ukrainian forces fended off the Russian offensive around Kyiv, helped by a large infusion of Western arms, both eastern Ukraine and Mariupol in the south have borne the brunt of a ferocious ground and artillery attack.

President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government received a fresh boost as the US Congress approved a $40-billion (38-billion-euro) aid package, including funds to enhance Ukraine’s armoured vehicle fleet and air defence system.

And meeting in Germany, G7 industrialised nations pledged $19.8 billion to shore up Ukraine’s shattered public finances. Ukraine sorely needs enhanced capability to fend off the kind of onslaught Russia is waging in the eastern region of Donbas, a Russian-speaking area that has been partially controlled by pro-Kremlin separatists since 2014.

"In Donbas, the occupiers are trying to increase pressure," Zelensky said in his nightly video address late on Thursday. "There’s hell -- and that’s not an exaggeration." In the eastern city of Severodonetsk, 12 people were killed and another 40 wounded by Russian shelling, the regional governor said. Zelensky described the bombardment of Severodonetsk as "brutal and absolutely pointless", as residents cowering in basements described an unending ordeal of terror.