Ukraine has ‘likely won’ battle for Kharkiv



Ukraine’s president has said very difficult talks were underway on evacuating “a large number” of wounded soldiers from a besieged steelworks in the strategic southeastern port of Mariupol in return for the release of Russian prisoners of war.

Mariupol, which has seen the heaviest fighting in nearly three months of war, is now in Russian hands but hundreds of Ukrainian defenders are still holding out at the Azovstal steelworks despite weeks of heavy Russian bombardment.

Fierce Ukrainian resistance, which military analysts say President Vladimir Putin and his generals failed to anticipate when they launched the invasion on February 24, has also slowed and in some places reversed Russian advances around Ukraine.

“At the moment very complex negotiations are under way on the next phase of the evacuation mission – the removal of the badly wounded, medics,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a late night address.

He said “influential” international intermediaries were involved in the talks, without elaborating. Russia, which initially insisted the defenders in the sprawling Soviet-era bunkers beneath the steel works give themselves up, has said little publicly about the talks.



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