“Attempts to storm the factory are continuing for the second day,” Arakhamia was quoted by Radio Free Europe as saying. “Russian forces are already present in Azovstal lands.”
“As of Wednesday evening, contact continues between the Kyiv government and Ukrainian fighters at the plant,” he added.
Prior to these statements, Mariupol Mayor Vadim Boychenko said the factory was witnessing “violent battles”, shortly after Moscow confirmed it was not launching an attack on the huge complex where Ukrainian fighters are holed up.
“Unfortunately, fierce fighting is taking place in Azovstal today (Wednesday). We have lost contact with the men. We cannot know what is going on there, whether they are safe or not,” Boychenko told Ukrainian television.
According to the local official, “heavy artillery, tanks and aviation” are participating in this Russian attack, as well as “ships approaching” the coasts, knowing that the Azovstal region is located along the Sea of Azov.
“Our men are brave and defend the fort, but it is difficult,” he told Ukrainian television, noting that “by repelling the enemy” for weeks, the last fighters holed up underground in the huge Azovstal complex “managed to gain some time.”
Boychenko reiterated that there were “hundreds of civilians” in the area, among them “children waiting to be rescued. There are more than 30 children.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the Kremlin denied that Russian forces were launching an attack on the industrial complex in Mariupol, stressing that they had no intention of storming it.
“The order (on April 21) was publicly given by the Supreme Commander (Vladimir Putin) to cancel any incursion,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
He stressed that Moscow’s forces surrounded the site, but only intervened to “quickly prevent attempts” by Ukrainian fighters to return to the “firing positions”.
“Proud twitter enthusiast. Introvert. Hardcore alcohol junkie. Lifelong food specialist. Internet guru.”