Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said that new battles have broken out at the Azovstal plant, where hundreds of civilians are still trapped inside along with the last Ukrainian defenders in the city.
"Today there are heavy battles on the territory of our fortress, on the territory of Azovstal. Our brave guys are defending this fortress, but it is very difficult, because heavy artillery and tanks are firing all over the fortress; aviation is working, ships have approached and are also firing on the fortress," Boichenko said.
Speaking on Ukrainian television, Boichenko said there were 30 children trapped at the plant still waiting to be rescued.
"They are waiting for a new negotiation procedure and a new evacuation mission," he said.
"We must understand that people are still dying. Unfortunately, enemy aviation and artillery are working and firing on the fortress constantly," he said. Two young women were killed at Azovstal earlier this week, he added.
He also said contact had been lost with the Ukrainian defenders.
"Unfortunately, today there is no connection with the guys, there is no connection to understand what is happening, whether they are safe or not. Yesterday there was a connection with them; today, no more."
Meanwhile, the Kremlin said the Russian Armed Forces were not “storming” the Azovstal plant but described it instead as suppressing “attempts by militants” to take new firing positions.
“There has been a public order by the supreme commander [Russian President Vladimir Putin] to cancel the storming; there is no storming,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday in a call with reporters.
Peskov added: “We see that there are aggravations associated with the fact that the militants go to firing positions. These attempts are suppressed very quickly. There is nothing else to say here yet."
See Russian strikes on Azovstal steel plant: