“The Russian troops entered the territory of Azovstal but were kicked out by our defenders,” Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said on Ukrainian television. “We can say that the fighting is ongoing.”

Heavy fighting raged Thursday at the shattered steel plant in Mariupol as Russian forces attempted to finish off the city’s last-ditch defenders and complete the capture of the strategically vital port.

The bloody battle came amid growing suspicions that President Vladimir Putin wants to present the Russian people with a major battlefield success — or announce an escalation of the war — in time for Victory Day on Monday. That is the biggest patriotic holiday on the Russian calendar, marking the Soviet Union’s triumph over Nazi Germany.

Ten weeks into the devastating war, Ukraine’s military claimed it recaptured some areas in the south and repelled other attacks in the east, further frustrating Putin’s ambitions after his abortive attempt to seize Kyiv.

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