US assesses there have been no major territorial gains so far for Russia in new offense

The escalating conflict in eastern Ukraine remains a central focus, as Russian forces continue their siege of Mariupol.

A port city said to be of critical strategic importance, Mariupol’s fate rests on its Azovstal iron and steel plant, which remains under the control of Ukrainian forces despite relentless Russian attacks.

Officials say hundreds of civilians are sheltering in the basements of the plant, and a Mariupol police official told CNN that food and water supplies were dwindling amid the heavy bombardment. 

A corridor has been agreed on with Russia for evacuation of women, children and the elderly from Mariupol, according to the Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister, but Russian forces are reported to be attempting an advance towards a city that forms part of the route.

Here are the latest developments in the Russia-Ukraine conflict:

Siege of Mariupol continues: Despite weeks of heavy attacks as Russia attempts to “close the circle” around Mariupol, Ukrainians continue to defend the city. However conditions may soon worsen, with a Ukrainian military commander telling CNN from one of the remaining holdouts that they may have “only a few days or even hours left.”

Steel plant “completely surrounded”: Ukrainian troops and civilians remain trapped in Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant under heavy Russian bombardment. An estimated 1,000 civilians, including women, children and the elderly were sheltering inside the plant, Myhailo Vershynin, chief of the Mariupol patrol police, told CNN earlier this week. The commander of Ukraine’s 36th Separate Marine Brigade, Maj. Serhii Volyna, told CNN by phone Tuesday evening that the plant was “completely surrounded” and requested international assistance in evacuating hundreds of troops and civilians.

Evacuation corridor for Mariupol agreed: Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Wednesday that a corridor had been agreed on with Russia for the evacuation of women, children and the elderly from Mariupol. She said the convoy was set to move from the besieged city toward Manhush and then onward through the Russian-held city of Berdyansk, then north toward the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhzhia.

Russian forces attempt advance on corridor city: Zaporizhzhia, part of the evacuation corridor, is in the direction of an attempted advance by Russian forces, the city’s Regional Council said Wednesday. As fighting intensifies across the country’s east, the council said that the Russian military was trying to advance “in the direction” of Zaporizhzhia “but suffers losses and focuses its main efforts on maintaining the occupied frontiers.”

European officials highlight alleged war crimes: Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said Tuesday that Russia’s aggression in Ukraine is “comparable to the darkest pages in our European history” adding “that there can be no impunity for war crimes.” On Wednesday, President of the European Council Charles Michel said that “history will not forget the war crimes” committed in Ukraine.

Russian billionaire blasts war: Russian billionaire Oleg Tinkov has blasted Russia’s war in Ukraine, calling on the West to do more to “stop this massacre” in an Instagram post Tuesday. “I don’t see a single beneficiary of this insane war,” the founder of Tinkoff Bank wrote. Tinkov was among the 65 individuals and entities sanctioned by the United Kingdom for “supporting Russia’s illegal invasion.”

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