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May 22, 2022, 4:32 p.m. EDT

War in Ukraine: Russia presses Donbas offensive as Polish leader visits Kyiv

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By Associated Press

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In a general staff morning report, Russia also said it was preparing to resume its offensive toward Slovyansk, a city in Donetsk province that is critical to Russia’s objective of capturing all of eastern Ukraine and saw fierce fighting last month after Moscow’s troops backed away from Kyiv.

In Enerhodar, a Russian-held city 174 miles northwest of Mariupol, an explosion Sunday injured the Moscow-appointed mayor at his residence, Ukrainian and Russian news agencies reported. Ukraine’s Unian news agency said a bomb planted by “local partisans” wounded 48-year-old Andrei Shevchuk, whose home is near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which is Europe’s largest and employs many Enerhodar residents.

With Russia claiming to have taken prisoner nearly 2,500  Ukrainian fighters  from the Mariupol steel plant, concerns grew about their fate and the future facing the remaining residents of the city, now in ruins with more than 20,000 feared dead.

Relatives of the fighters have pleaded for them to be given rights as prisoners of war and eventually returned to Ukraine. Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Saturday that Ukraine “will fight for the return” of every one of them.

The complete seizure of the Azovstal steel plant, a symbol of Ukrainian tenacity. gave Putin a badly wanted victory in the war he began nearly three months ago, on Feb. 24.

Denis Pushilin, the pro-Kremlin head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, vowed that the Ukrainian fighters from the plant  would face tribunals . He said foreign nationals were among them, although he didn’t provide details.

Ukraine’s government has not commented on Russia’s claim of capturing Azovstal. Ukraine’s military had told the fighters their  mission was complete  and they could come out. It described their extraction as an evacuation, not a mass surrender.

Mariupol Mayor Vadim Boychenko warned that the city faced a health and sanitation “catastrophe” from mass burials in shallow pits as well as the breakdown of sewage systems. An estimated 100,000 of the 450,000 people who lived in Mariupol before the war remain.

With Russia controlling the city, Ukrainian authorities will likely face delays in documenting any alleged Russian atrocities there, including the bombings of a maternity hospital and  a theater where hundreds of civilians had taken cover .

Meanwhile, a Ukrainian court was expected to reach a verdict Monday for a Russian soldier who was the  first to go on trial for an alleged war crime . The 21-year-old sergeant, who has admitted to shooting a Ukrainian man in the head in a village in the northeastern Sumy region Feb. 28, could get life in prison if convicted.

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova has said her office was prosecuting war crimes cases against 41 Russian soldiers for offenses that included bombing civilian infrastructure, killing civilians, rape and looting. Her office has said it was looking into more than 10,700 potential war crimes involving more than 600 suspects, including Russian soldiers and government officials.

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