World leaders urged to aid 'hundreds of' civilians hiding under Ukrainian steel plant in Mariupol

The Azov regiment released footage of women and children who appeared to be sheltering in Azovstal

A Ukrainian military commander has urged world leaders to secure a humanitarian corridor for the evacuation of 1,000 civilians holed up in a Mariupol steelworks. Denis Prokopenko, from the Azov Battalion, said in a video message that “hundreds of civilians” are sheltering in Azovstal - one of Europe’s largest metal plants. Mr Prokopenko added that Russia had begun dropping bunker-buster bombs on the steelworks.

The city's council said more than 1,000 civilians were sheltering under the plant.

Azovstal is believed to be the last major pocket of resistance in the shattered city of Mariupol. On Sunday, Ukrainian forces ignored a Russian demand for surrender.

Moscow estimated that 2,500 Ukrainian troops and about 400 foreign mercenaries were dug in. The US said nearly a dozen Russian battalion tactical groups have been tied up trying to defeat them. The head of the city’s patrol police, Mikhail Vershinin, told Mariupol television that children were among the civilians hiding in the plant, seeking shelter from Russian shelling and forces occupying other parts of the city.

The Azov Battalion released drone footage that seems to show them ambushing Russian troops in Mariupol

A separate appeal by the Ukrainian deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk to Russia on Monday said: “We demand the opening of a humanitarian corridor from Mariupol to Berdyansk for civilians. Separately, we demand an urgent humanitarian corridor from the territory of the Azovstal plant for women, children and other civilians.”

She added that refusing to do so will justify war crimes trials.

The Russians, for their part, said “neo-Nazi nationalists” have hampered evacuations.

Russia has Mariupol surrounded and has been fighting a bloody battle to seize it. If Russia takes Mariupol, it would free up troops for use elsewhere in the Donbas, deprive Ukraine of a vital port, and complete a land bridge between Russia and the Crimean Peninsula, seized from Ukraine in 2014.

Ukraine estimates that 21,000 people have been killed in Mariupol.