Mariupol has come under a devastating bombardment from Russian forces with the last defending troops holding out in a steelworks (Picture: Reuters)
Serhiy Volynskyi, of the 36th Marine Brigade, sent a message from under the plant as Moscow stepped up its assault on the final redoubt.
Amid desperate humanitarian conditions, with civilians said to be dying by the hour, he said ‘the bombing has increased, they will soon kill us’.
The soldier sent the message at 2.44am US time today as fears grew for those remaining in the southern city, which has been under siege for weeks.
He earlier recorded a video message, which was shared online by the pro-Ukraine Razom organisation, calling on another nation to step in and extract soldiers and civilians from the Azovstal metal works.
A board member for the non-profit group told Metro.co.uk that ‘30 people are dying every hour’ under the steel plant, with pockets of people stranded in different sections of the labyrinthine tunnels.
Mr Volynskyi has managed to stay in online communication with Razom and The Washington Post. The message was his last contact with the group.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said tonight that 1,000 civilians are trapped under the factory as the final hours play out in the siege of the port city. The defenders have refused to surrender as they continue a dogged resistance to the invaders’ superior firepower following the beginning of the Russian invasion on February 24.
Serhiy Volynskyi who said he and his comrades face death as Russian troops advance on Ukraine’s last foothold in Mariupol (Picture: Razom/@razomforukraine)
Razom board member Maryna Prykhodko said: ‘The situation looks desperate, I struggle to find words to describe it. It’s certainly been 70 years since the world has borne witness to something like this.
‘The situation described to us from people who are at the Azovstal plant is just one of complete devastation.
‘They are under constant bombardment and this includes civilians who have been sheltering there since February 24 because the catacombs underneath the plant are very intricate and solid.
‘The military has also had to shelter there as well.
‘They have many wounded and there is no other place to go, there is no help or resources elsewhere. Because the Russian forces are closing in they do not have any way to bring any support or help inside the shelter.
‘The situation is getting worse by the minute.’
The commander of the last Ukrainian troops in Mariupol who said in a video that his unit was facing annihilation (Picture: Reuters/Twitter/Alec Luhn)
Ms Prykhodko, leader of Razom’s advocacy team, said people were dying on an hourly basis, either from Russian bomb blasts pounding parts of the underground warren or from lack of medicine or food and water.
She told Metro.co.uk that all parties on the Ukrainian side believe an extraction by a third party taking a neutral role is their best hope of survival, as they have no faith that Russia would honour a humanitarian corridor.
Ms Prykhodko said: ‘We are told by the commander of the last remaining battalion that more than 30 people are dying every single hour. It’s hard to believe, but it’s happening right now.
‘It’s easy to feel helpless but there are things that can be done, particularly an extraction operation from a third party country, at least for the civilians. The military, civilians, officials and government are all calling for this.’
Ms Prykhodko, who is based in New York, described the plant as being a large site with the tunnels built out of solid concrete, meaning it has been difficult to count the pockets of people trapped.
Rescuers work at a residential building damaged by the Russian bombardment of the southern port city of Mariupol (Picture: Reuters/Alexander Ermochenko)
A burnt-out bus is seen in front of a residential building damaged by the Russian bombardment of Mariupol (Picture: Reuters/Alexander Ermochenko)
She believes the total number may be between 2,000 and 3,000.
‘If there are people hiding there’s no opportunity to even count people because the situation is so dire,’ Ms Prykhodko said.
‘People are dying by the hour. They are dying from the missiles and bombardment and there’s no medicine or access to supplies.
‘People are dying from their injuries, from blood loss, from asphyxiation. There’s no access to sunlight or water. People are dying from hunger.
‘It’s a terrible way to die and they are being left there alone.’
Razom is calling on the world to better arm Ukraine so the horrific fate befalling Mariupol is not repeated in other cities as Russia escalates its assault on the east of the country following its failed attempt to seize Kyiv.
The #ArmUkraineNow appeal asks for the immediate supply of heavy weaponry such as long-range air defence systems and combat aircraft.
The plea is being issued as the final battle plays out with the last pocket of troops refusing Russian ultimatums to lay down their arms and surrender.
The city has been almost completely reduced to ruins under the bombardment from the Kremlin’s forces.
A map showing how the battle for Mariupol has unfolded as Ukrainian troops fight to the last (Picture: Metro Graphics)
More than 10,000 civilians are thought to have died during the brutal assault and the real death toll could be double that, according to the city’s mayor, Vadym Boychenko.
In a video shared by Razom showing civilians under the plant, a four-year-old girl, identified only as Alice, says she misses her grandmother and adds: ‘I want to go home.’
Earlier today, a handful of people had reportedly started to leave the shattered city through a humanitarian corridor to Ukrainian territory.
The Reuters news agency took pictures of civilians boarding buses making up a small convoy due to head to Zaporizhzhia in the south east.
However Mariupol’s deputy mayor, Sergei Orlov, told the BBC it was too early to tell if the evacuation effort would be successful, and it was not clear if anyone had been able to leave the factory.
A message in a video calling on the world to arm Ukraine with heavy weaponry to allow it to better defend key cities (Picture: Razom/@razomforukraine)
Dmytro Gurin, a Ukrainian MP with strong links to the city, said there was mistrust of so-called ‘green corridors’.
He also told the BBC Today programme that the civilians at the plant included families of the soldiers, and he feared they would murdered in the same way as residents in the city of Bucha, to the north of Kyiv.
Mr Gurin said: ‘We have seen what happened in Bucha and we understand that these women and these children will be raped and they will be killed.
‘So soldiers and the Ukrainian army are not going to surrender.’
Asked about the convoy, Mr Gurin reflected distrust following earlier breakdowns in attempts to facilitate evacuations and reports that Russia shelled a humanitarian corridor opened on March 8.
‘We are waiting for official news,’ he said. ‘We are pessimistic about green corridors from Mariupol.’
Ms Prykhodko later said that no one had been able to leave the steel works.
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