Hundreds of civilians and Ukrainian fighters remain trapped at the plant and Russian forces have pushed their way inside. The seizure of Mariupol is expected to play a central role in Moscow’s celebration on May 9 of Victory Day, historically marking the end of World War II.
When the moist concrete walls deep below ground and the mold and the cold and the weeks without fresh fruit or vegetables became too much to bear, some in the bunker underneath Elina Tsybulchenko’s office decided to visit the sky, AP reports.
They made their way, through darkness lit by flashlights and lamps powered by car batteries, to a treasured spot in the bombarded Azovstal steel plant, the last Ukrainian holdout in the ruined city of Mariupol. There, they could look up and see a sliver of blue or smoky gray. It was like peering from the bottom of a well. For those who could not, or dared not, climb to the surface, it was as distant as peace.
But seeing the sky meant hope. It was enough to make Elina’s adult daughter, Tetyana, cry.
The Tsybulchenko family was among the first to emerge from the steel plant in a tense, days-long evacuation negotiated by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross with the governments of Russia, which now controls Mariupol, and Ukraine, which wants the city back. A brief cease-fire allowed more than 100 civilians to flee the plant.
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