Massive Fighting In East Ukraine


By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent

KYIV/BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – Ukrainian forces desperately tried to halt a massive Russian attack on ’s east Saturday, fighting village by village to stop the advance.

Earlier the Russian defense ministry said it had hit 17 targets in Ukraine with missiles and airstrikes, killing more than 200 Ukrainians and 23 armored vehicles and other military equipment.

The clashes came as the United Nations tried to broker a civilian evacuation from the last defensive stronghold in the bombed-out ruins of Ukraine’s besieged port city of Mariupol.

About 100,000 civilians remain in the city, and a U.S. security source told Worthy that thousands of civilians and fighters live beneath a sprawling Soviet-era steel plant.

He said U.S. troops and others in Ukraine are involved in evacuating at least some of them but warned that there is little time left before the factory gets destroyed.

ELITE UNITS

Officially the claims no American combat forces are on the ground. However, ’s Focus magazine reported over the weekend that at least several hundred “elite units” from and the U.S. are in Ukraine.

The U.S. security source said the elite units are part of a much larger American force.

Kyiv has not said how many Ukrainian fighters are in the plant, the only part of Mariupol not occupied by Russian forces. But put the number at about 2,000, though the U.S. security source said the number of fighters and civilians is much higher than reported.

Russian state outlets said Saturday that 25 civilians had been evacuated from the Azovstal steelworks. However, there was no confirmation from the U.N. Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency said 19 adults and six children were brought out but gave no further details.

A top official with the Azov Regiment, the Ukrainian unit defending the plant, said 20 civilians were evacuated during a cease-fire. It was unclear if he was referring to the same group as the Russian news reports.

“These are women and children,” Sviatoslav Palamar said in a video on the regiment’s Telegram social media channel. He also called for the evacuation of the wounded: “We don’t know why they are not taken away, and their evacuation to the territory controlled by Ukraine is not being discussed.”

EVACUATION DANGEROUS

However, evacuating civilians can be dangerous: Ukraine’s military said two out of three buses sent to rescue civilians from Popasna, another town under attack in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, “had gone missing.”

Yet, a prisoner exchange Saturday saw the return of 14 Ukrainians – including one soldier who is five months pregnant – for an unknown number of Russian captives.

That hopeful event was quickly overshadowed by Ukraine accusing Russia of stealing several hundred thousand tonnes of grain from occupied territory. Kyiv labeled it “outright robbery” – something Moscow denies.

Other horrors emerged Saturday, including in Bucha, near Kyiv, where Ukraine’s police said they found three bodies of men who had been tied up, blindfolded, and apparently tortured.

There is also concern among Ukrainian and U.S. officials that Russia may use chemical and weapons or even attack a nuclear power plant, Worthy News established.

A Russian diplomat in charge of nuclear non-proliferation, Vladimir Yermakov, said Moscow is sticking to its ideal that nuclear conflict is unacceptable. But he accused the West of escalating tensions. Moscow earlier said nuclear weapons might be used if the existence of Russia as a state is threatened.

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