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Russia steps up attacks on Ukraine during ‘Victory Day’

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Ukrainian authorities reported intense fighting in the eastern Donbas region on Monday, along with renewed bombardments of Odessa and another Russian effort to take Mariupol.

The offensive actions came as Moscow marked its celebration of “Victory Day” — a traditional show of military force commemorating the end of World War II — with a speech by President Vladimir Putin blaming Ukraine for the war.

“Openly, preparations were underway for another punitive operation [in Donbas], for an invasion of our historical lands, including Crimea,” Putin said, according to Russian state-run news outlet TASS.

Putin presented his war of aggression as an inevitable conflict with the West, accusing the US and its “junior partners” of arming neo-Nazis for an “inevitable” fight with Russia.

“I repeat, we saw how the military infrastructure is being developed, how hundreds of foreign advisers began to work, there were regular deliveries of the most modern weapons from NATO countries. The danger grew every day,” he said.

Meanwhile, Russian forces pounded away at the Azovstal steel works in the ruined Donbas port city of Mariupol, where some 2,000 Ukrainian fighters are making their final stand. Russian troops were also attempting to storm the plant, according to Ukrainian authorities.

Earlier in the day, the United Nations said it had evacuated the final few dozen civilians from the plant, where they had been taking shelter from Russian bombardment for months.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking at a parade for "Victory Day" in Moscow on May 9, 2022.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking at a parade for “Victory Day” in Moscow on May 9, 2022.
Photo by Contributor/Getty Images
Vladimir Putin
Putin claimed that “preparations were underway for another punitive operation [in Donbas], for an invasion of our historical lands, including Crimea” in his speech.
Anton Novoderezhkin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP
People attending a demonstration in St. Petersburg, Russia for Victory Day on May 9, 2022.
People attending a demonstration in St. Petersburg, Russia, for Victory Day on May 9, 2022.
PA/ANATOLY MALTSEV

Russian forces destroyed at least one bridge in the city in order to deny the defenders an escape route, according to a Telegram post by Petro Andrushchenko, an adviser to Mariupol’s mayor.

The move came as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church made a plea to Putin for the soldiers’ lives.

“We hope that you will Christianly agree to the extraction procedure for the Ukrainian garrison in Mariupol, and give the opportunity to surrounded civilians, police, border guards and the military to enter the territory controlled by Ukraine or the territory of third countries,” Metropolitan Onufry, the head of the church, wrote in an open letter to the Russian president.

Smoke rising from an oil refinery after Russian shelling in near Lysychansk, Ukraine on May 9, 2022.
Smoke rising from an oil refinery after Russian shelling near Lysychansk, Ukraine, on May 9, 2022.
Photo by YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images
A Ukrainian soldier firing a mortar in the Kharkiv region on May 9, 2022.
A Ukrainian soldier firing a mortar in the Kharkiv region on May 9, 2022.
REUTERS/Serhii Nuzhnenko

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church — distinct from the Orthodox Church of Ukraine — is loyal to the Russian Orthodox Church, a staunch Putin ally.

Elsewhere in the Donbas, Russian forces were attempting to advance, laying pontoon bridges down across the Siverskyi Donets River in the Luhansk oblast, CNN reported.

The move was an apparent effort to cut off supply lines to Severodonetsk and other Ukrainian cities in the east.

A wounded Ukrainian soldier being transported to a hospital in the Luhansk region of Ukraine on May 8, 2022.
A wounded Ukrainian soldier being transported to a hospital in the Luhansk region of Ukraine on May 8, 2022.
EPA/ROMAN PILIPEY

Ukrainian authorities also reported multiple missile strikes in the historic Black Sea port of Odessa, in the southwestern portion of Ukraine.

Authorities in Mykolaiv — a Ukrainain deep-water port and shipbuilding hub on the Pivdennyi Buh River — also reported heavy shelling overnight.

With Post wires

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