One of the fighters holed up in a steelworks besieged by Russian forces in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol yesterday appealed to SpaceX chief executive officer Elon Musk to help evacuate them.
Many civilians were rescued from the sprawling Azovstal plant last week under an agreement with Russia, but no deal has been reached with Moscow on allowing out hundreds of fighters, some of whom are wounded, after weeks of bombardment.
Marine commander Serhiy Volina wrote on Twitter: “@elonmusk people say you come from another planet to teach people to believe in the impossible. Our planets are next to each other, as I live where it is nearly impossible to survive.”
“Help us get out of Azovstal to a mediating country,” Volina wrote. “If not you, then who? Give me a hint.”
Musk, the world’s richest man, owns rocket company SpaceX and electric vehicle maker Tesla, and is planning to buy Twitter.
It was not immediately clear whether Musk had seen Volina’s message.
Ukrainian officials say there are about 1,000 fighters holding out in Azovstal’s many underground tunnels, hundreds of whom are seriously wounded and in need of urgent evacuation.
Russian forces yesterday were continuing airstrikes on the steel mill, while pressing their advance on towns in eastern Ukraine, the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said.
The bombardment came as Ukraine offered to release Russian prisoners of war in exchange for the safe evacuation of the badly injured fighters that remained trapped inside the mill.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that negotiations were under way to release the injured fighters, who are holed up in the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol.
There were options, but “none of them is ideal,” Vereshchuk said.
Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko, said that Russian forces have blocked all evacuation routes out of the city.
There are few apartment buildings fit to live in and little food or drinking water, he said.
Some remaining residents are cooperating with occupying Russian forces in exchange for food, Andriushchenko said.
“The occupiers turned Mariupol into a medieval ghetto,” Boychenko said in comments published by City Hall, as he called for a complete evacuation of the city.
Elsewhere, overnight airstrikes in the northern Chernihiv region killed three people and injured 12, local media reported, citing emergency services.
The regional governor said the strikes on the town of Novhorod-Siverskyi damaged a boarding school, dormitory and administrative building.
In its operational statement for Day 78 of the war, the Ukrainian military said Russian forces also fired artillery and grenade launchers at Ukrainian troops in the direction of Zaporizhzhia, which has been a refuge for civilians fleeing Mariupol.
Additional reporting by AP
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