Ukraine-Russia War Update: Bloody battle rages on at Mariupol steel factory, March theater bombing death toll doubles prior estimate

by Chris Lange

Chris Lange, FISM News


Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attacks in the east and recaptured some territory in the south over the past 24 hours according to new reports coming out of the war-torn country. Five people were killed and at least 25 more were wounded in the shelling of cities in the Donbas, Ukrainian officials said. The attacks targeted houses and a school.

As the brutal war enters its tenth week, Ukrainian and Russian forces are engaging in fierce, village-by-village combat in the Donbas, Ukraine’s industrial heartland, where Moscow continues to struggle in its advance. 

Ukrainian forces said Thursday that they repelled 11 Russian attacks in both the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that comprise Donbas and managed to make gains on the border of the southern regions of Kherson and Mykolaiv.

Russian attacks were reported near Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv as well as in Cherkasy and Dnipro in central Ukraine and Zaporizhzhia in the southeast. Ukrainian authorities in Dnipro said a rail facility was attacked – the latest in a series of Russian strikes targeting bridges, highways, and train stations. Strikes were also reported in Lviv, which has served as a major gateway for western weapons shipments.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby on Wednesday said Russian forces are targeting “critical infrastructure targets” in and around Lviv, including “electrical power, transportation hubs,” and similar targets.

“We think this is an effort to try to disrupt the Ukrainians ability to replenish and reinforce themselves,” Kirby added. He also said that the Pentagon is assessing the effects of the strikes, noting that Russia’s “ability to target with precision has been less than advertised throughout this entire war.”

“They are not good at precision strikes. They are not discriminate with how they target. So again, I’m not making a statement about these most recent ones but I think it’s just good to remind ourselves of their lack of accuracy over the course of the last almost 70 days here.”

‘Bloody’ fighting continues at Mariupol steel factory

Ukrainian forces holed up in what remains of the Azovstal steelworks factory in Mariupol continued to fend off an onslaught by Russian troops. Denys Prokopenko, commander of the Ukrainian Azov regiment defending the plant, said in a video posted Wednesday that the fighting is ongoing and that “bloody battles are taking place.”

Meanwhile, the United Nations announced that more than 300 civilians were evacuated Wednesday from Mariupol and other nearby communities. The evacuees have been taken in buses and ambulances to Zaporizhzhia, a city roughly 140 miles to the northwest, where they have been receiving humanitarian assistance, including food, water, fresh clothing and diapers, and first aid. The youngest evacuee is six months old.

“Many came with nothing but the clothes they were wearing, and we will now support them during this difficult time, including with much-needed psychological support,” said Osnat Lubrani, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine.

Death toll from Mariupol theater bombing doubles prior estimate

A new Associated Press investigation found that at least 600 Ukrainians were killed while sheltering in a Mariupol theater when the site was bombed by Russian forces on March 16.

The number is more than double the amount of deaths previously estimated. The shocking bombing of the theatre represents the deadliest known attack on Ukrainian civilians to date. Prior to the bombing, the Russian word for “children” had been painted in huge letters on two sides of the building, drawing fierce condemnation of Russia’s unmitigated brutality from around the world.

European reactions

Belarus announced Wednesday that it will begin new military exercises, suggesting that they may enter the war to help Russia. A top Ukrainian official said the country is prepared to act if Belarus joins the fighting.

Elsewhere, Hungary and Slovakia said they won’t comply with a push from the EU’s top official calling on the 27-nation bloc to ban Russian energy imports. The proposal requires unanimous approval; however, the two nations will likely be granted exemptions since they are heavily dependent on Russian-supplied energy.