The intense battle between Ukrainian and Russian forces for Mariupol has moved to the streets in the center of the city, officials said Saturday. "The fighting is already in the city itself," an official in the mayor's office texted, the Wall Street Journal reports. "But Mariupol remains a Ukrainian city." Russian troops were on the advance, per the Washington Post, which was complicating the search for hundreds of people missing in the rubble of a theater Russia bombed on Wednesday.
A city police officer posted a video telling the US and French presidents that the aid the city has received from their countries falls short of their promises. "Give us that help," Michail Vershnin said, per the AP. His city, he said, has been "wiped off the face of the Earth." With its Russian-speaking population, Mariupol is a strategically important port city that Russia thought it would take quickly, allowing many of its troops to move on. That didn't happen. Azov Battalion, a Ukrainian volunteer group, reported that "the military is repulsing the enemy, which isn’t stopping its attack on Mariupol with artillery and aircraft." A former CIA analyst said that, by now, "the commanders on the Russian side have to be desperate for a win."
Mariupol officials said that more than 4,000 residents were forced to cross the border into Russia, where they feared the forced labor awaited the Ukrainians. Russia claimed Friday night that thousands of Ukrainians have "expressed their desire to escape to the Russian Federation." The Russian forces have had new successes elsewhere. Crews were searching for survivors in the remains of the 36th Ukrainian Naval Infantry Brigade headquarters in Mykolaiv, which was struck by a Russian rocket while marines slept. The death toll was reported to be at least 40, per the New York Times. (Read more Russia-Ukraine war stories.)