Russia launched an airstrike Sunday on the Azovstal steel factory where Ukrainian soldiers and civilians are holding out against assault in Mariupol, according to officials in Kyiv.
“In the Mariupol direction, the Russian enemy continued to fire and blockade our units in the Azovstal area of Mariupol,” Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence wrote in clipped language April 24 on its official website. “Inflicts air strikes, including from long-range aircraft. Using the railway connection, the enemy makes attempts to establish logistical support for troops.”
The strike comes as Ukraine observes Orthodox Easter Sunday, and on the same day Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky has said he will meet in Kyiv with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin last week said he would not send troops into the heavily guarded Azovstal factory. Putin ordered his forces to form a tight blockade outside the facility where Ukrainian soldiers and civilians remain inside.
The International Committee of the Red Cross on Sunday said that it is “deeply alarmed by the situation in Mariupol, where the population is in dire need of assistance.” The group called for Mariupol to be evacuated.
“Immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access is urgently required to allow for the voluntary safe passage of thousands of civilians and hundreds of wounded out of the city, including from the Azovstal plant area,” the group said in a statement.
Ukrainian military officials on Sunday noted gains it said it has made against Russian forces.
“The Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, along with other anti-aircraft units of the Defence Forces, destroyed 17 air targets the previous day: nine UAVs, three planes and five cruise missiles,” the ministry wrote.
“Twelve attacks by the Russian occupiers were repulsed in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts over the past 24 hours, four tanks, 15 armored and four units of motor vehicles, and five artillery systems were destroyed.”
The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.