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Russia claims to be close to seizing Mariupol

STORY: Ukrainian soldiers resisted a Russian ultimatum to lay down arms on Sunday in the port city of Mariupol.Moscow said its forces had almost completely seized the city in what would be its biggest strategic prize of the nearly two-month war.On the streets of Mariupol, residents walked past rubble and burnt buildings and bodies covered in blankets, as they evacuated their destroyed homes. One woman who only gave her first name, Irina was one of the residents fleeing: “Yes, we came to get out stuff. Nats (nationalists) tried to break in – looks like they failed. So we can get at least some of our stuff. We left (our apartment) wearing winter clothes – this was all we had.”Some Ukrainian fighters remained in the Azovstal steelworks, one of Europe’s biggest plants, a maze of rail tracks, tunnels and blast furnaces.It has become the last stand for the city’s outnumbered defending forces. Reuters has not been able to verify whether there are significant numbers of civilians at the plant.Mariupol is the main port in the Donbas region, and connects territory held by pro-Russian separatists in the east with the Crimea region that Moscow annexed in 2014.In other parts of the country Russia continued its attacks, in what it calls a special military operation to demilitarize Ukraine. Kyiv has accused Putin of unprovoked aggression.In an Easter mass service in the northern town of Bucha, mourners prayed for their loved ones where a mass graveyard was found.63-year-old Galina Bondar lost her son Olexandar when fighting Russian soldiers:”For me it is a torn soul and a torn heart. I don’t know how I will survive.”Russia denies targeting civilians.Also on Sunday – shellings in Ukraine’s second biggest city, Kharkiv, hit a residential building and a nearby hospital.Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said late night Sunday that Eighteen people have been killed and more than 100 wounded in shelling in the past four days in Kharkiv.And in St Peter’s Square Pope Francis pleaded for an end to the bloodshed and lamented the “Easter of war” during his address.

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