Russians again calling for Ukrainians to lay down arms where civilians are said to be sheltering

(NEW YORK) — Russia’s military issued another warning to Ukrainian forces in a Mariupol steel plant on Wednesday, telling them to lay down their arms and leave, according to Russian state media.

Russia claimed a ceasefire would begin at the Azovstal steel plant at 2 p.m. Moscow time to allow Ukrainian fighters to safely leave. Ukrainian forces rejected a similar offer on Tuesday.

The Mariupol city council claimed Tuesday that there are at least 1,000 civilians seeking shelter in the plant, mostly women with children and the elderly. Ukrainian authorities have not confirmed the number of Ukrainian marines and Azov fighters at site.

A Russian official, Dmitry Polyansky, accused Ukrainian troops of using civilians at the plant as human shields.

“One month into the siege of Azovstal plant, those same radicals and neo-Nazis suddenly declared that allegedly there had been civilians inside the plant all that time, even though until yesterday, they had never uttered a word about it,” Polyansky told the U.N. Security Council during a session on Ukraine on Tuesday.

In a video posted online, Serhiy Voyna, the commander of the 36th Separate Marine Brigade and commander for Ukraine’s marines in Mariupol, made an appeal to world leaders, asking for an extraction from the plant to the territory of a third-party state.

“This could be the last appeal of our lives. We are probably facing our last days, if not hours. The enemy is outnumbering us 10 to 1. They have advantage in the air, in artillery, in their forces on land, in equipment and in tanks,” Voyna said.

Voyna spoke to the Washington Post via satellite phone on Tuesday, and said his forces would not make the same mistake made by others and trust Russian guarantees of safe passage, only to see them open fire.

Voyna said more than 500 Mariupol military battalion soldiers are wounded.

“We are only defending one object, the Azovstal plant where, in addition to military personnel, there are also civilians who have fallen victim to this war. We appeal and plead to all world leaders to help us. We ask them to use the procedure of ‘extraction’ and take us to the territory of a third-party state,” Voyna said.

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