First published 24 April 2022, on Politico
KYIV, Ukraine — Russian forces called in airstrikes on a besieged steel factory in the southern city of Mariupol to try to dislodge the last Ukrainian troops holding out in the strategic port, Ukrainian officials said Sunday, while President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he would meet in Kyiv with two top American officials.
Zelenskyy gave few details about the logistics of his planned talks with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on what was the 60th day since Russia invaded Ukraine. But he told reporters he expected the Americans to come bringing “not just presents or some kind of cakes, we are expecting specific things and specific weapons.” ….
Russia has been trying to take Mariupol for nearly two months, and the city on the Sea of Azov has seen some of the war’s worst deprivations. Its capture would deprive Ukraine of a vital port, free up Russian troops to fight elsewhere, and establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow seized in 2014.
Some 2,000 troops have been fighting tenaciously to hold on to the last remaining Ukrainian outpost in the city, the Azovstal steel plant, which also has civilians taking refuge in its labyrinthine tunnel system.
Russian forces have continued to pummel the plant, hitting it with air strikes, including by long-range aircraft, Oleksandr Shtupun, spokesman for the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff, said Sunday.
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