The mayor of Ukraine’s besieged city of Mariupol said Tuesday 100,000 citizens remained in the city, while Ukrainian officials awaited the arrival of the first group of people who were able to leave a bombed-out steel plant.
Mayor Vadym Boychenko said those still in the city included some civilians trapped in the bunkers and tunnels under the Azovstal iron and steel works. There are an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian troops holed up there as well.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Monday that only civilians had so far been able to leave the plant and that Ukraine’s government was continuing to work to negotiate an evacuation for soldiers holed up inside. Evacuated civilians were heading to Zaporizhzhia, about 200 kilometers away, although their progress was reported to be slow.
Russia’s military said Monday that 69 people who came out of the steel mill chose to be evacuated to Ukraine-controlled territories, while 57 others asked to stay in areas controlled by Russia.
Ukraine has previously accused Russia of taking Ukrainians to Russia against their will, a charge Moscow denies.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Greek state television Monday that the remaining civilians in the steel plant had been afraid to board buses because they believed they would be taken to Russia.
As soon as Tuesday the European Union is expected to propose a new package of sanctions on Russia, including limits on Russian oil. German officials indicated Monday that country could support a full EU embargo of Russian oil.
“We have managed to reach a situation where Germany is able to bear an oil embargo,” German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said.
Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address Monday, “We expect a new package from the European Union soon. This package should include clear steps to block Russia’s revenues from energy resources.”
Tuesday U.S. President Joe Biden is visiting the state of Alabama where Lockheed Martin manufactures weapons including the Javelin anti-tank missiles that are among the arms the United States is sending to Ukraine.
The White House said Biden will also “deliver remarks highlighting his request to Congress to pass funding quickly to help Ukraine continue to succeed against Russian aggression and make sure the United States and our allies can replenish our own stocks of weapons to replace what we have sent to Ukraine.”
The CIA on Monday released instructions on social media explaining how Russians disaffected by the war could get in touch with U.S. intelligence.
“We are providing Russian-language instructions on how to safely contact the CIA — via our dark web site or a reputable VPN — for those who feel compelled to reach us because of the Russian government’s unjust war,” a CIA spokesperson said.
A senior U.S. defense official described continuing problems for Russia’s military, including poor command and control issues and low morale in many units.
“We continue to see minimal at best progress by the Russians” in capturing the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine,” the official said, adding, “They’ll move in, declare victory and then pull out, allowing the Ukrainians to take it back.”
The official described Russia’s advances as “very cautious, very tepid, very uneven,” adding that “in some places, quite frankly, the best word to describe it would be ‘anemic.'”
VOA’s Jeff Seldin contributed to this report. Some information came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Press and Reuters.