Putin mouthpiece backtracks on talk of Russian military failures
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TRK Hromadske Radio reported on Thursday, May 19, that Russian occupiers in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol will teach youngsters at a children’s centre opened in a dilapidated, former kindergarten. It said that Commissioner of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine for Human Rights, Lyudmila Denisova, had made the announcement.
She is reported saying that children will be taught from a Russian-language textbook containing poems including lines such as “Donbas – Russian land” and “Our family is Russia”.
TRK Hromadske Radio said there is no light or water in the “bombed-out” children’s institution with food prepared on a fire in the yard.
The station alleged Russia is now trying to create the impression peace has been restored to the port despite “the fact that they do not control the city”.
Reports of Ms Denisova’s claims came on the same day Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said the industrial Donbas region, the focus of recent Russian offensives, has been destroyed.
Russia is using artillery and armour in its bid to capture more territory in the Donbas, which is made up of the Donetsk and Luhansk areas.
Moscow claims it is acting on behalf of separatists.
But the outcome of one of Europe’s bloodiest battles for decades remains unclear with uncertainty over the fate of hundreds of Ukrainian troops.
Mr Zelensky said on Thursday: “The occupiers are trying to exert even more pressure. It is hell there – and that is not an exaggeration.
“[There are] constant strikes on the Odesa region, on the cities of central Ukraine. The Donbas is completely destroyed.”
The commander of Ukraine’s Azov Regiment said in a video statement released on Friday that civilians and heavily wounded Ukrainian fighters had been evacuated from the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol where they have been holding out for weeks.
Denys Prokopenko said: “The civilians have been evacuated. The heavily wounded received the necessary assistance and they were evacuated, to be later exchanged and delivered to territory controlled by Ukraine.”
Russia’s TASS news agency reported Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu as saying that almost 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers holed up in the steelworks have surrendered so far.
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British military intelligence said on Friday that Russia is likely to reinforce its operations in the Donbas once they secure Mariupol.
Russia needs Mariupol in order to cement control of land seized along Ukraine’s southern coast, reaching westwards to Crimea which Moscow annexed in 2014.
The city is now an urban wasteland, shattered by artillery and street fighting.
Before the war its population was about 430,000.
Denis Pushilin, head of the Russian-backed separatist Donetsk People’s Republic which now includes Mariupol, claimed 200,000 people remain.
Ukrainian officials have said it is only half that number.
Adviser to Mr Zelensky, Mykhailo Podolyak said on Tuesday that the defenders of Mariupol had changed the course of the war.
Mr Podolyak said that the defence of the city interrupted Russia’s plan to seize swathes of territory in eastern and southern Ukraine.
Although Mariupol’s complete capture would represent Russia’s biggest victory of the war so far, its campaign has faltered elsewhere.
Moscow’s troops around Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv recently retreated.
They were also driven out of the north and areas around the capital Kyiv at the end of March.
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