MARIUPOL-A Ukrainian commander inside the ruins of the Azovstal complex in Mariupol has recorded a video message saying that heavy fighting continues.

“It’s been the third day that the enemy has broken through to the territory of Azovstal. Fierce bloody combat is ongoing,” said Sviatoslav Palamar, the Azov regiment’s deputy commander. “The defenders of the city have been fighting alone for 71 days with the overwhelming forces of the enemy and show such endurance and heroism that the country must know what it means to be loyal to the motherland,” Palamar said on Telegram.

He said the Russians had broken their pledge to allow civilians to leave through evacuation corridors Thursday.

“Once again, the Russians violated the promise of a truce and did not allow evacuation for civilians who continue to hide in the basements of the Azovstal plant. I call on the world community to evacuate civilians,” Palamar said. He also made an appeal to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, saying: “I personally appeal to the Supreme Commander-in-Chief to take care of the wounded soldiers who are dying in terrible agony from improper treatment. Give the opportunity to pick up the bodies of soldiers so that Ukrainians can say goodbye to their heroes. Respond appropriately to a critical situation in which the enemy does not adhere to any ethical norms.” After about 100 civilians were able to leave the plant Sunday, none have emerged since. There are thought to be between 200 and 300 civilians still inside the plant, including 30 children. Since Sunday, it has been bombarded from land, sea and air.

Russia ‘trying to destroy’ last Ukrainian units in Azovstal: Kyiv

Ukraine said Thursday Russia was “trying to destroy” its remaining soldiers holed up in Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant, with Kyiv’s last defenders in the battered city saying Moscow forces have broken into the giant factory. “Russian occupiers are focusing on blocking and trying to destroy Ukrainian units in the Azovstal area,” Kyiv’s army said in a statement.

“With the support of aircraft, Russia resumed the offensive in order to take control of the plant.” The statement came as a Russian-announced ceasefire was due to begin at the besieged plant, where hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers and some civilians have been trapped for weeks.

A commander of the Azov battalion, leading the defense of Mariupol, said late on Wednesday that Russian soldiers have entered the plant and that there were “ongoing, bloody battles.” “For two days, the enemy has burst into the enclosure of the steelworks,” Azov commander Denys Prokopenko said in a video on Telegram.

“The situation is extremely difficult but despite this we continue to execute the order to hold the defence.”

He said the Ukrainian units were “resisting” while being outnumbered by the Russians.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday asked UN chief Antonio Guterres to help “save” his units in Azovstal, calling for “the removal of all the wounded”.

The Ukrainian leader said in a separate video address later that there were still civilians -- “women and children” -- stuck at Azovstal and that Kyiv was “negotiating” to rescue them.

“It takes time to simply lift people out of these underground shelters,” he said.

“In current conditions, we cannot use special equipment to clear the debris. Everything is done manually.”

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko on Thursday called for the continuation of UN- and Red Cross-led evacuations from the southern port city.

“Now we are fighting for the salvation of every person, every Mariupol resident,” he said on Telegram.

A further 344 Ukrainians were evacuated from Mariupol and its surroundings late on Wednesday.

Fighting also raged in other parts of eastern Ukraine, with the governor of the Donbas region Pavlo Kyrylenko saying at least 25 civilians were wounded in an overnight Russian strike on the city of Kramatorsk.

| A Ukrainian commander says Russians had broken their pledge to

allow civilians to leave through evacuation corridors Thursday