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Russia asks Ukrainian army in Mariupol to lay down arms and save their lives

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Russia has asked Ukrainian forces fighting in the southern port of Mariupol to lay down their arms starting 6 a.m. Moscow time (0300 GMT) on Sunday if they want to save their lives.

According to Russia’s Defence Ministry, its troops had cleared the urban area of Mariupol and only a small contingent of Ukrainian fighters remained inside a steelworks in the city on Saturday. Moscow’s claim that it has all but taken control of Mariupol could not be independently verified.

Mariupol happens to be the Russia-Ukraine war’s heaviest fighting and worst humanitarian catastrophe and would be the first major city to have fallen to Russian forces since the Feb. 24 invasion.

“Taking into account the catastrophic situation that has developed at the Azovstal metallurgical plant, as well as being guided by purely humane principles, the Russian Armed Forces offer the militants of nationalist battalions and foreign mercenaries from 06:00 (Moscow time) on April 17, 2022, to stop any hostilities and lay down their arms,” the defence ministry said in a statement.

“All who lay down their arms are guaranteed that their lives will be spared,” it said, adding that the defenders could leave the plant by 10 a.m. without arms or ammunition.

The Russian defence ministry said its troops had “completely cleared” Mariupol’s urban area of Ukrainian forces and blockaded the “remnants” in the Azovstal steelworks, RIA news agency said. It said that as of Saturday, Ukrainian forces in the city had lost more than 4,000 personnel.

There was no immediate response from Kyiv.

“The situation is very difficult in Mariupol,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told the Ukrainska Pravda news portal. “Our soldiers are blocked, the wounded are blocked. There is a humanitarian crisis… Nevertheless, the guys are defending themselves.”

Moscow said its warplanes had struck a tank repair factory in Kyiv on Saturday. An explosion was heard and smoke rose over the southeastern Darnytskyi district. The mayor said at least one person was killed and medics were fighting to save others. Moscow has also launched long-range missile attacks across the country following the sinking of its Black Sea flagship.

The Ukrainian military, on the other hand said that Russian warplanes that took off from Belarus had fired missiles at the Lviv region near the Polish border and four cruise missiles were shot down by Ukrainian air defences. The western city of Lviv, relatively unscathed so far, has served as a haven for refugees and international aid agencies.

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