Russian Shelling of Ukrainian Cities ContinuesRussian shelling of Ukrainian cities continues‚ but the mayor of Mariupol says capturing the city is a symbol of the failure of the NATO and Western military alliance. He compared the massacres in Mariupol to the Holocaust in Babyn Yar‚ Germany‚ saying: We are witnessing the greatest war crime of the 21st century. While Hitler wiped out the Jews‚ Roma and Slavs‚ Putin has already exterminated tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians. The city of Mariupol was a major Soviet-style port‚ and Russian missiles destroyed the Holocaust memorial in Kyiv early this month.
POKROVSK (Ukraine) -- This would mark its largest victory to date in. The war russia‚ along with Ukraine claimed that it had captured Mariupol following a three-month long siege. This reduced Mariupol to a smoking ruin. Over 20‚000 people are feared to have been killed. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu informed President Vladimir Putin of the total liberation of Mariupol's Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol -- last bastion of Ukrainian resistance -- according to a spokesman Igor Konashenkov. Ukraine did not immediately confirm the news. Russia's state media agency RIA Novosti reported that the ministry said that 2‚439 Ukrainian soldiers had surrendered to the steelworks since Monday. This includes over 500 who were captured on Friday. The Russians took the soldiers prisoner as they surrendered. At least some of them were transferred to an ex-penitentiary colony. Other troops were taken into hospital. As part of its attempt to portray the invasion of Nazi-controlled Ukraine as an attack on the country's Nazi influence‚ the Kremlin seized the Azov Regiment of Ukraine as the leader of defense of the steel plant. Russia claimed that the Azov commander had been taken from the site in an armored car. Russian authorities threatened to prosecute some of those who defended the war crimes at steel mills‚ and they have already done so. This has sparked international concern about their fate. For weeks‚ the steelworks which covered 11 km (4 miles) of territory was the scene of intense fighting. After a few days of fighting‚ the small group of outgunned soldiers had managed to hold out and draw Russian artillery‚ tank fire and airstrikes before their government forced them to leave the plant defense and rescue themselves. Putin's complete victory over Mariupol is a much-needed win in his war on February 24. This conflict was meant to be a quick conquest by the Kremlin‚ but has instead seen the defeat of Kyiv as the capital‚ the pullback of troops on the east‚ and the sinking the Russian Black Sea Fleet flagship. According to military analysts‚ Mariupol's capture is symbolic in that Moscow had already taken control of Mariupol and the majority of those Russian troops who were held hostage by fighting elsewhere had fled. Other developments included the West sending billions of dollars more to Ukraine and fighting in Donbas. This is the eastern Ukraine's industrial heartland that Putin wants to capture. According to Ukrainian authorities‚ Russian forces attacked a major Luhansk city and continued their attacks. They also shelled another vital road. Luhansk forms part of the Donbas. To complete the land corridor linking Russia and Crimea‚ the Kremlin wanted Mariupol under its control. It also needed to free troops from the bigger battle for Donbas. Ukraine is also without a seaport. Mariupol endured some of the worst suffering it became an iconic symbol of resistance and defiance throughout the world during World War II. There were an estimated 100‚000 survivors of the war‚ compared to 450‚000 people in prewar times. Many were left without access to food‚ water or heat. Rows upon rows were left with ruined or destroyed buildings after the relentless bombardment. A maternity hospital was hit A Russian airstrike killed nearly 300 people on March 9. These images show horrendous scenes of women in their wombs being evacuated. About 300 civilians had been sheltering in the theater when it was bombed. However‚ this incident occurred a week later. The real death toll may be close to 600. In April‚ satellite images showed mass graves outside Mariupol. Local officials claimed that Russia had concealed the massacre by burying as many as 9‚000 civilians. This month hundreds of civilians fled the site during humanitarian ceasefires. They spoke out about the terror and fear of constant bombardment and underground conditions and their fears that they would not make it to safety. Azovstal was nearing its end‚ and wives of Azovstal fighters told how they worried about losing contact with their husbands. Olga Boiko (wife of a Marine) cried as she explained that her husband wrote her Thursday morning: "Hello." We surrender. I do not know when or if I'll get back in touch with your husband. We love you. Kiss you. Bye. Natalia Zaritskaya (wife of another Azovstal fighter) said that‚ based upon the messages she'd seen in the last two days‚ they were now on the road to Hell. This path leads to death every inch. According to her‚ she said that her husband had reported two days earlier that only eight of 32 soldiers with which he served were alive‚ the majority of whom were seriously injured. The Russians described the evacuation of the steel plant by the Ukrainians as a surrender in mass‚ but the Ukrainians call it a successful mission. The fighters‚ they claimed‚ had repelled Moscow's attempts to take over the east and brought down its forces. Mykhailo Podolyak was a Ukrainian Presidential adviser. He called the defense of Mariupol the Thermopylae for the 21st Century. This refers to the historic defeat in which 300 Spartans defeated a larger Persian army in 480 B.C. Before finally giving up. In other developments Friday: Zelenskyy stated that Russia should pay the cost of every house‚ school‚ hospital‚ and business it damages. Zelenskyy urged Ukraine's partner countries to take control of Russian property and funds‚ and create a compensation fund for those who were hurt. He said that Russia would feel every single missile‚ bomb and shell it fired at us. Group of Seven countries and international financial institutions came together to give more money to Ukraine to boost its finances. The total amount is now $19.8 million. The U.S. President Joe Biden had been expected to sign an estimated $40 billion package for military and economic assistance to Ukraine and its allies. The Finnish state energy firm said that Russia would cut natural gas supply to Finland from Saturday. This was just days after Finland submitted its NATO application. Moscow had demanded that Finland pay in rubles for its gas. It is unlikely that the cutoff will have any significant immediate effects. Finnish broadcaster YLE stated that natural gas accounted only for 6% percent of Finland's energy consumption in 2020. An accused Russian soldier captured for killing civilians awaited his fate at the first trial of war crimes in Ukraine. Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin (21)‚ could be sentenced to life imprisonment Russian legislators proposed legislation to raise the 40-year-old age for Russians who want to volunteer for military service. All Russian males aged 18-27 must serve a year‚ although many are eligible for college deferments or other exemptions. ___ McQuillan reported in Lviv. Stashevskyi was based in Kyiv. Associated Press journalist Yuras Karamanau in Lviv Andrea Rosa in Kharkiv and Jamey Keaten‚ Geneva‚ contributed to this report. ___ Follow AP’s coverage of Ukraine's war: https://apnewscom/hub/russia-ukraine