Multiple explosions at Mariupol steel plant amid claims civilians still sheltering inside

ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry has the latest developments from Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Newly circulated footage has captured multiple explosions appearing to strike the Mariupol steel works where a Ukrainian commander says soldiers are engaged in "bloody battles".

Denys Prokopenko, commander of the Ukrainian Azov regiment, said attacks had continued into a second day “and there are heavy, bloody battles”.

Though the UN earlier this week said an evacuation of civilians had been successful, Ukrainian officials have said more civilians remain trapped inside.

The explosions at the industrial complex come after the recent evacuation of a group of civilians

The video appears to show multiple explosions sending smoke and flames in the air around sections of the Soviet-era industrial facility, thought to be the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the southern port city.

It is not clear when the strikes happened.

The attack comes after Mariupol's mayor said heavy fighting broke out on Wednesday at the Azovstal plant, where more than 30 children, he said, were still awaiting evacuation.

Vadym Boichenko said earlier that contact had been lost with the Ukrainian fighters who are still in the sprawling steel works.

Smoke rises from the Metallurgical Combine Azovstal on Tuesday. Credit: AP

Officials later said that communication remained between the soldiers and Ukraine's government.

Ukraine's ruling parliamentary faction head David Arakhamia confirmed that Russian forces had entered the territory of the Azovstal plant.

"Attempts to storm the plant continue for the second day," he was quoted as saying.

As the humanitarian crisis deepens in the southern port city, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to renew efforts to save those still trapped in the steel works.

A Red Cross official waves a white flag while approaching the Azovstal steelworks. Credit: AP

Some evacuees, who had endured weeks of shelling, were able to be rescued amid a brief ceasefire and arrived in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia, around 140 miles north-west of Mariupol, on Tuesday.

But the Ukrainian government wants to see more people rescued from the industrial works.

"The lives of the people who remain there are in danger. Everyone is important to us. We ask for your help in saving them," Mr Zelenskyy said in a statement issued by his office.

City authorities estimate that around 200 civilians and more than 30 children are still trapped at the steel plant, despite partially successful UN-led evacuation attempts earlier this week.

Hryhorii hugs his wife Oksana as they are reunited in a reception center for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia. Credit: AP

Despite the ongoing fighting, Ukrainian officials say evacuations from Mariupol will continue. Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said evacuations from the besieged port city and three other locations to Zaporizhzhia would take place “if the security situation permits.”

The Russian government has pledged to facilitate humanitarian corridors from Thursday through to Saturday in order to enable more evacuations, though assurances of safe passage have been broken before.

Much of Mariupol, which had a pre-war population of around 400,000 people, has been reduced to rubble by constant Russian assaults, which have trapped civilians with little heat, food, water or medicine.

Away from the ongoing fighting in Mariupol, the UK's Ministry of Defence (MoD) says Russia is also trying to hamper Ukrainian resupply efforts with missile strikes across the country.

In an intelligence update, the MoD said: "The continued targeting of key cities such as Odessa, Kherson and Mariupol highlights their desire to fully control access to the Black Sea, which would enable them to control Ukraine’s sea lines of communication, negatively impacting their economy."

The Russian military said it used sea and air launched missiles to destroy electric power facilities at five railway stations across Ukraine, while artillery and aircraft also struck troop strongholds and fuel and ammunition depots.

These claims could not be independently verified.

Air raid sirens sounded in cities across Ukraine on Wednesday night and missile fire followed shortly after in the cities of Cherkasy, Dnipro and Zaporizhzhia.

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