KUIV: Women and children sheltering inside a steel plant in the shattered Ukrainian port city of Mariupol said they longed to see the sun, according to a video released on Saturday, as Russian troops pressed their offensive in the eastern Donbas region against fierce resistance.
The Azov Regiment of Ukraine's National Guard, which has members holed up in the Azovstal steel plant along with other soldiers and civilians, released footage of around two dozen women and children, some of whom said they had been in the mill's underground tunnels for two months.
The regiment's deputy commander Sviatoslav Palamar told The Associated Press the video was shot on Thursday. The contents could not be independently verified.
Both Ukrainian and Russian authorities have said the Azovstal plant is the last remaining defence stronghold in Mariupol, which has been under siege since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. "We want to see peaceful skies, we want to breathe in fresh air," one woman in the video said.
"You have simply no idea what it means for us to simply eat, drink some sweetened tea. For us, it is already happiness." More than 100,000 people, down from a prewar population of about 430,000, are believed trapped in Mariupol with little food, water or heat, according to Ukrainian authorities.
The authorites estimated on Friday that about 1,000 civilians remain trapped at Azovstal together with about 2,000 Ukrainian fighters. The footage showed soldiers giving sweets to children who respond with fist-bumps.
One young girl says she and her relatives "haven't seen neither the sky, nor the sun" since they left home on February 27. "We really want to get out of here safely, so that no one gets hurt," the girl pleads.
Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory in Mariupol earlier this week and ordered his forces not to storm the steel plant but to seal it off in an apparent bid to starve out the Ukrainians and force them to surrender.
The southern city is of strategic importance to Moscow and has become a symbol of Ukraine's dogged resistance to the invasion.
Over 20,000 civilians have been killed in Mariupol during the nearly two-month siege, Satellite images released this week showed what appeared to be mass graves near Mariupol, and local officials accused Russia of burying thouands of civilians to conceal the slaughter taking place there.