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Russian military reportedly dropped heavy bombs on a steel plant and hit an “improvised” hospital PA Images
Ukraine

Ukraine receives missiles from Norway amid warning Mariupol defenders are facing 'last days'

Commander Serhiy Volyna said his marines are “maybe facing our last days, if not hours”.

LAST UPDATE | Apr 20th 2022, 10:45 AM

A COMMANDER OF forces holding out at a steel plant in the besieged port city of Mariupol in Ukraine has issued a desperate plea for help, saying his marines are “maybe facing our last days, if not hours”.

“The enemy is outnumbering us 10 to one,” Serhiy Volyna, from the 36th Separate Marine Brigade, said.

In the latest ultimatum issued in its seven-week battle to capture Mariupol, Moscow urged the city’s defenders to surrender by 2pm local time (11am Irish time).

It was today confirmed that Norway has given Ukraine around 100 French-made Mistral anti-air missiles.

The Mistral launchers and missiles, which have already been delivered, had until now been mounted on Norwegian navy vessels, the defence ministry said in a statement today.

Built from the end of the 1980s by defence group Matra, which later merged with European missile developer MBDA, the Mistral is a very short-range surface-to-air missile. It can be used on vehicles, ships and helicopters, or be portable.

In a video speech to the Norwegian parliament at the end of March, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had asked Oslo for anti-air missiles, albeit the more modern NASAMS type made by Norway’s Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace.

“The (Mistral) missile is to be retired from the Norwegian military but it is still a modern and efficient weapon that will be of great use to Ukraine”, Norway Defence Minister Bjorn Arild Gram said in the statement.

“Other countries have also donated similar weapons systems”, he said.

Since the start of the Russian invasion on 24 February, Norway has already provided Ukraine with some 4,000 anti-tank weapons and other smaller military equipment.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon in the US today said that Ukraine recently received fighter planes and parts to bolster its air force while declining to specify the number of aircraft and their origin.

Kyiv has asked its Western partners to provide MiG-29s, which its pilots already know how to fly, and a handful of Eastern European countries have.

European Council chief Charles Michel, representing EU member states, arrived in Kyiv today.

“In the heart of a free and democratic Europe,” Michel wrote on his Twitter account, accompanied by a photo taken at a train station in the Ukrainian capital.

Hospital bombing

Ukrainian troops earlier accused Russian forces of bombing a hospital sheltering some 300 people in Mariupol.

The deputy commander of the Azov regiment, who was among the troops remaining in Mariupol, said the Russian military dropped heavy bombs on the steel plant and hit an “improvised” hospital.

Serhiy Taruta, the former governor of the Donetsk region and a Mariupol native, also reported the bombing of the hospital, where he said 300 people, including wounded troops and civilians with children, were sheltered.

The reports could not be independently confirmed.

The eastern cities of Kharkiv and Kramatorsk also came under deadly attack. Russia also said it struck areas around Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro west of the Donbas with missiles.

Zelenskyy said the Russian military was throwing everything it has into the battle, with most of its combat-ready forces now concentrated in Ukraine and just across the border in Russia.

“They have driven almost everyone and everything that is capable of fighting us against Ukraine,” he said in his nightly video address to the nation on Tuesday.

Despite claims that they are hitting only military sites, the Russians continue to target residential areas and kill civilians, he said.

“The Russian army in this war is writing itself into world history forever as the most barbaric and inhuman army in the world,” Zelenskyy said.

Weeks ago, after the abortive Russian push to take Kyiv, the Kremlin declared that its main goal was the capture of the mostly Russian-speaking Donbas, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years.

A Russian victory in the Donbas would deprive Ukraine of the industrial assets concentrated there, including mines, metals plants and heavy-equipment factories.

Military experts said the Russians’ goal is to encircle Ukrainian troops from the north, south and east.

Key to the campaign is the capture of Mariupol, which would deprive Ukraine of a vital port and complete a land bridge between Russia and the Crimean Peninsula, seized from Ukraine in 2014. It would also free up Russian troops to move elsewhere in the Donbas.

A few thousand Ukrainian troops, by the Russians’ estimate, remained holed up in a sprawling Mariupol steel plant, representing what was believed to be the last major pocket of resistance in the city.

Russia issued a new ultimatum to the Ukrainian defenders to surrender on Wednesday after a previous ultimatum was ignored. The Russian Defence Ministry said those who surrender will be allowed to live and given medical treatment. There was no immediate response from the Ukrainian troops, but they have repeatedly vowed not to give up.

Peace needed urgently – Coveney

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney yesterday urged the UN Security Council to do all it can to secure an urgent peace in Ukraine, amid the all-out Russia offensive in the Donbas region.

Coveney also accused Russian forces of showing an “utter disregard” for international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians.

He told the Security Council that he was aware that leaders were meeting “in the shadow of a renewed offensive by Russian forces on eastern Ukraine”.

“I hear the narrative, from far too many quarters, that peace is only possible after the battle for Donbas. I can’t accept that logic – a logic that leads directly to further death, further suffering, further displacement.

“This Council must challenge that thinking, today and every day. We must demand more.”

Coveney also spoke in New York about the horrors he witnessed during a recent visit to the town of Bucha. He described the scenes he witnessed as “profoundly shocking”.

“Hundreds of family homes, shops and other civilian infrastructure: blackened, burnt, looted, damaged, and in some cases completely destroyed. Family cars, riddled with bullets, windshields smashed, bloodstains still evident.

“I’ve been around long enough to know the difference between truth and staged propaganda when I see it. There was nothing fabricated about what I witnessed.

“I stood at the edge of one of the mass graves, where the work of carefully exhuming bodies continued. Five hundred and three civilians had been identified at that stage – and just four soldiers.”

He said that what he witnessed during the visit “speaks to an utter disregard by Russian forces for international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians”.

“There’s no spinning that reality away with disinformation.”

Coveney said that Ireland will not remain silent on the “senseless and devastating” war in Ukraine nor on the impact it is having on some of the poorest countries around the world.

He said that the UN Security Council cannot afford to remain silent either. He referenced depleted wheat reserves in Palestine, as well as the economic impact of the war on the Middle East and the Horn of Africa.

Coveney had confirmed earlier that just under 25,000 Ukrainians had arrived in Ireland as refugees, with 85% of that number women and children.

“Ireland is a small country,” he said. “We’re not a member of any military alliance. We’re no superpower. But we fought to take a seat at this table and we earned the right to be here.

“We did so because we fundamentally believe that, despite all the well documented flaws of this Council and there are many, it is the ultimate arbiter on matters of war and peace.”

2.66388715 Simon Coveney is shown the site of mass graves where more than 50 bodies were found in Bucha Department of Foreign Affairs / PA Department of Foreign Affairs / PA / PA

Coveney took the opportunity to call on Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, to end the war.

“As it was on the 25th of February, so it is today – this is a war of choice. It can end immediately if president Putin so decides.

“And yet, instead we are seeing a renewed and upscaled offensive in eastern Ukraine. This is madness that history will judge very harshly.

“We have to find a way to stop this war. I want to call today on Russia directly – agree to an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, commit to negotiations, respect this Charter.

“We know that some progress was made in Istanbul between the key parties. There is clearly a basis for a peace agreement.”

Contains reporting from Press Association

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