LVIV, Ukraine: Russian and Ukrainian forces fought for control of the port city of Mariupol on Sunday (Mar 20), local authorities said, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed to Israel for help in pushing back the Russian assault on his country.
In the latest appeal he has made for assistance from abroad, Zelenskyy addressed the Israeli parliament by video link and questioned Israel’s reluctance to sell its Iron Dome missile defence system to Ukraine.
“Everybody knows that your missile defence systems are the best … and that you can definitely help our people, save the lives of Ukrainians, of Ukrainian Jews,” said Zelenskyy, who is of Jewish heritage.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has held numerous calls with both Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin to try to end the conflict.
Mariupol has suffered some of the heaviest bombardments since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb 24. Many of its 400,000 residents remain trapped there with little if any food, water and power.
Fighting continued inside the city on Sunday, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said, without elaborating.
The Russian governor of Sevastopol, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014, said on Sunday that Post Captain Andrei Paliy, deputy commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, had been killed during fighting in Mariupol.
Russia called on Ukrainian forces in Mariupol to lay down their arms, saying a “terrible humanitarian catastrophe” was unfolding.
It said defenders who did so were guaranteed safe passage out of the city and humanitarian corridors would be opened from it at 10am Moscow time on Monday.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said 7,295 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Sunday, 3,985 of them from Mariupol. She said the government planned to send nearly 50 buses to Mariupol on Monday for further evacuations.
Russia and Ukraine have made agreements throughout the war on humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians, but have accused each other of frequent violations of those.
Capturing Mariupol would help Russian forces secure a land corridor to the Crimea peninsula that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.