• The San Juan Daily Star

‘Slammed from all sides’: Survivors of steel plant siege reach safety

Evacuees from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol arrived in Zaporizhzhia on Tuesday after spending weeks sheltering in the bunkers underneath the industrial complex.

By Michael Schwirtz, Cora Engelbrecht and Matthew Mpoke Bigg

Just over 150 women and children who had been trapped for weeks in bunkers beneath a besieged steel plant in Mariupol arrived Tuesday to the relative safety of territory controlled by Ukraine, even as Russian resumed its assault on the plant and bombarded targets across parts of the country’s south and east.

“I was in Azovstal for 2 1/2 months and they slammed us from all sides,” said Olga Savina, an elderly woman among the evacuees. She said the sun burned her eyes after so many days underground. Russian forces started shelling the plant just after international negotiators left with the evacuees, military officials on both sides said.

As fighting continued across the country, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain told the Ukrainian parliament in a video address that the country’s resistance would rank as its “finest hour,” using Winston Churchill’s words to compare the war to Britain’s struggle against the Nazis.

The speech was the first by a foreign leader to Ukraine’s parliament since the war began, and it reflected growing Western support for Ukraine, whose ferocious defense has forced Russia to retreat from its initial objective of capturing the capital, Kyiv. President Joe Biden is scheduled to speak about the war Tuesday during a visit to a plant that manufactures Javelin missiles, the anti-tank weapon that is part of a growing arsenal delivered by the United States and its allies to Ukraine.

In other developments:

— The European Union has shown remarkable unity in the face of Russian aggression, including nearing approval of an embargo on Russian oil, but difficulties emerged as Hungary equivocated.

— In a further sign of Western resolve, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany promised to back Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership if the two countries decide to join the alliance.

— The Pentagon described Russia’s offensive in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine as “anemic” and “plodding,” and slowed by a risk-averse approach designed to avoid the heavy casualties that Moscow’s troops suffered in the first phase of the war.

— A senior U.S. diplomat said Russia appears to be preparing to annex the separatist territories of Donetsk and Luhansk in the east, and the Kherson region in the south, using “sham” elections to claim control.

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