Commander in Ukraine’s Mariupol warns his forces are facing ‘last days…




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Issued on: 20/04/2022 – 06:22

Russia gave Ukrainian fighters nevertheless holding out in Mariupol a fresh ultimatum to surrender on Wednesday as it pushed for a decisive victory in its new eastern offensive, while Western governments pledged more military help to Kyiv. Thousands of Russian troops backed by artillery and rocket barrages were advancing in what Ukrainian officials have called the Battle of the Donbas. Follow our live blog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

7:35am: Italy seeks African gas to end dependence on Russia

Italian ministers head to central Africa Wednesday in an urgent quest for new energy deals as Italy scrambles to break away from Russian gas over the Ukraine war. chief Minister Mario Draghi is looking to add Angola and the Congo Republic to a portfolio of suppliers to substitute Russia, which provides about 45 percent of Italian gas.

“We do not want to depend on Russian gas any longer, because economic dependence must not become political subjection”, he said in an interview with the Corriere della Sera daily published on Sunday. “Diversification is possible and can be implemented in a comparatively short amount of time – quicker than we imagined just a month ago,” he said.

Draghi, who has tested positive for Covid-19, is sending in his stead Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and Ecological change Minister Roberto Cingolani, who will travel to Luanda on Wednesday and Brazzaville on Thursday.

3:55am: Marine in besieged Mariupol says ‘maybe facing our last days, if not hours’

A commander for the Ukrainian marines fighting in the last stronghold of Mariupol said his forces were “maybe facing our last days, if not hours” and appealed for extraction in a Facebook post published early Wednesday.

“The enemy is outnumbering us 10 to one,” Serhiy Volyna from the 36th Separate Marine Brigade said, sheltering at the besieged Azovstal factory, adding: “We allurement and plead to all world leaders to help us. We ask them to use the procedure of extraction and take us to the territory of a third-party state.”

It is not possible to verify information given by either side given the extent of the fighting and without of communications in Mariupol.

Russian forces are believed to have little by little pushed their way into the city and some Ukrainian officials said Tuesday that a hospital near the Azovstal plant was hit.

Volyna said the Russians had the “advantage in the air, in artillery, in their forces on land, in equipment, and in tanks”.

“We are only defending one object – the Azovstal plant – where in addition to military personnel, there are also civilians who have fallen victim to this war,” he additional.

3:20am: Russia issues new surrender deadline in Mariupol, Ukrainian fighters refuse to lay down arms 

Russia gave Ukrainian fighters nevertheless holding out in Mariupol a fresh ultimatum to surrender on Wednesday as it pushed for a decisive victory in its new eastern offensive, while Western governments pledged more military help to Kyiv.

Thousands of Russian troops backed by artillery and rocket barrages were advancing in what Ukrainian officials have called the Battle of the Donbas.

Russia’s nearly eight-week-long invasion has failed to capture any of Ukraine’s largest cities, forcing Moscow to refocus in and around separatist regions.

The biggest attack on a European state since 1945 has, however, seen nearly 5 million people flee oversea and reduced cities to rubble.

Russia was hitting the Azovstal steel plant, the main remaining stronghold in Mariupol, with bunker-buster bombs, a Ukrainian presidential adviser said late on Tuesday. Reuters could not verify the details.

“The world watches the murder of children online and remains silent,” adviser Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter.

After an earlier ultimatum to surrender lapsed and as midnight approached, Russia’s defence ministry said not a single Ukrainian soldier had laid down their weapons and it renewed the proposal. Ukrainian commanders have vowed not to surrender.

2:05am: US preparing new $800 mn military aid package for Ukraine

The United States is set to approve another $800 million in military aid for Ukraine, less than a week after announcing a package of the same amount, US media reported Tuesday.

Details of the new package are nevertheless being worked out, according to CNN, which cited three senior officials in President Joe Biden’s administration.

NBC News reported that the new assistance is expected to include more artillery and tens of thousands of shells to help Kyiv combat Russia’s invasion, as fighting escalates in the east of Ukraine.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Tuesday that Biden and other world leaders had participated in a call during which they discussed providing additional ammunition and security aid to Ukraine.

Biden on April 13 had unveiled an $800 million package of equipment for Kyiv, including helicopters, howitzers and armoured personnel carriers.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

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