BRUSSELS — Heavy fighting continues at the besieged Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol, where Russian forces are intensifying their attack. A senior Ukrainian official said Friday that almost 500 civilians had been evacuated from the steel plant and its surroundings, adding that “the next stage is underway in rescuing our people” from the facility.
In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described the situation at the plant as “hell,” especially for the “many children who are still there.” A United Nations aid convoy is on its way to the shattered port city.
European Union ambassadors are debating plans to ban Russian oil imports, which would cut off a key source of funding for the Kremlin. However, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban warned Friday that the proposals would amount to “dropping a nuclear bomb on the Hungarian economy,” proving fractures persist within the economic bloc’s response to Moscow. E.U. ambassadors are now considering granting longer extensions to Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
On the battlefield, the governor of the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine described the situation there as “continuous horror,” accusing Russian forces on Friday of damaging homes and infrastructure. Ukrainian forces have shifted to counterattacks in the cities of Kharkiv and Izyum, with ongoing heavy clashes in the east, according to Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Ukraine’s top military officer. Ukraine is “putting up a very stiff resistance,” though Russian forces are making incremental progress in the Donbas region, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Thursday.