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Ukraine proposes to Russia private negotiations near Azovstal

Ukraine proposes to Russia private negotiations near Azovstal

The Ukrainian presidency announced, on Sunday, that it proposed to Russia to hold negotiations near the complex Azovstal The industrial area in Mariupol (southeast), where Ukrainian soldiers and civilians are still holed up, after most of the city is under Russian control.

“We invited the Russians to hold a special negotiation session near the Azovstal site,” said Oleksiy Aristovich, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, noting that the Ukrainian side was “awaiting a response” from the Russian delegation, according to AFP.

“Offensive Operations”

This came as Ukrainian officials said earlier that Russian forces tried to storm the Azovstal steel plant complex, which is controlled by Ukraine, on Sunday, in the city of Mariupol besieged in the southeast of the country.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces Command wrote on Facebook that Russian forces were carrying out “offensive operations” in the Azovstal region, as well as carrying out air strikes on civilian infrastructure.

A satellite image showing the Azovstal plant in Mariupol (AFP archive)

Speaking from his position at the factory in an interview with an opposition deputy posted on YouTube on Sunday, Serhiy Volina, commander of the 36th Ukrainian Marine Corps Brigade in Mariupol, noted that Russia is targeting the complex with air and artillery bombardments.

Official denies

On the other hand, Konstantin Ivashenko, the official appointed by Russia as mayor of Mariupol but not recognized by Ukraine, denied that there had been any fighting in the city, in statements quoted by the Russian news agency “TASS” on Sunday.

However, Reuters was not able to independently verify the Ukrainian or Russian accounts.

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It is noteworthy that Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that there was no longer any need to control the complex. Last Thursday, he declared the “liberation” of Mariupol, publicly calling on his defense minister to cancel the storming of the Azovstal plant in order to save the lives of Russian soldiers.

From Mariupol (archive from AFP)

From Mariupol (archive from AFP)

important goal

It is noteworthy that the Azovstal Steel Plant is the main stronghold of the Ukrainian resistance in the port of Mariupol.

Russian forces surrounded the factory in early March, and gradually took control of most of the city.

Mariupol has also constituted, since the launch of the Russian military operation on Ukrainian territory on February 24, an important goal for Moscow, especially since its control will allow it to link the regions of eastern Ukraine and the Crimea to the south, which were annexed to Russian territory in 2014.