The Ukrainian military said Russian forces continued to push their attacks east on Orthodox Easter Sunday.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said on Sunday that the Russians had fired on Ukrainian positions along the entire line of contact on the 60th day of the war.
He also said that the Russian army had intensified its offensive and assault operations in the Siverodonetsk, Kurakhiv and Popasna directions.
The General Staff added that Russian forces also continued to strike the besieged Azovstal Steel Plant in Mariupol, hitting it with airstrikes, including from long-range aircraft.
The bombardment comes as the Russians continue their offensive in a bid to take full control of Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, which is partly held by Moscow-backed separatists.
The Russian military claims to have hit a Ukrainian explosives factory, several artillery depots and hundreds of other targets.
The spokesman of the Russian Ministry of Defense, Major General. Igor Konashenkov said on Sunday that the Russian military used precision-guided missiles to destroy a gunpowder and explosives factory near Pavlohrad in the Dnipro region of central Ukraine – at least one no one was killed by a Russian missile in Dnipro, according to its regional governor.
Konashenkov also said Russian forces also hit several depots with artillery ammunition and rockets in Barvinkove, Nova Dmytrivka, Ivanivka, Husarivka and Velyka Komyshuvakha in the Kharkiv region.
He added that Russian artillery hit 423 Ukrainian targets overnight, including fortified positions and troop concentrations, while Russian warplanes destroyed 26 Ukrainian military targets.
Calls for evacuations from Mariupol
A Ukrainian presidential adviser has urged Russia to allow civilians to leave a steel mill in Mariupol besieged by Russian forces.
Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, has called on Russia to announce a truce in Mariupol on Orthodox Easter Sunday and immediately open a humanitarian corridor for civilians entrenched in the giant Azovstal steel plant.
He also challenged Russia to conduct a series of talks to negotiate an exit for Ukrainian defenders from the plant.
Podolyak tweeted that the Russian military is attacking the factory with heavy bombs and an artillery barrage and accumulating forces and materiel for an assault.
Sviatoslav Palamar, an officer in the Azov regiment defending the factory, said in a video that on Easter Sunday the Russians continued to shell the factory and shell it with heavy artillery.
Located in Donbass, the fall of Mariupol would offer Russia its biggest military victory of the war and give it full control of a land corridor from Donbass to Crimea, a southern region it seized in the Ukraine in 2014.
Easter calls for peace
Zelensky spoke of hope and victory for his nation during a speech on Easter Sunday.
Speaking from the ancient Saint Sophia Cathedral, he said “today’s great feast gives us great hope and unshakable faith that light will overcome darkness, good will overcome evil, life will overcome death, and therefore Ukraine will surely win!”
He said that “the Lord and the holy heavenly light are on our side”, adding, “We are going through very difficult trials. Let us reach a righteous end on this path – the beginning of a happy life and prosperity of the Ukraine”.
Zelensky said that “on Easter we ask God for a great grace to make our dream come true – this is another great day – the day when great peace will come to Ukraine”.
Meanwhile, religious leaders are calling for peace.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, on Saturday called for the opening of humanitarian corridors in Ukraine, saying a “human tragedy” was unfolding in the country.
“Let us ask the risen Redeemer that this year (Easter) be the impetus to open humanitarian corridors, safe passages to truly safe areas for the thousands of people surrounded in Mariupol, civilians, including the wounded, the elderly , women and many children,” Bartholomew at Midnight Mass in Istanbul.
Pope Francis has renewed his call for an Easter truce.
Without naming a country, Francis urged the aggressors to “stop the attack to help the suffering of the exhausted people.”
Francis told a crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square that two months had passed since Russia invaded Ukraine and said that “instead of stopping, the war got worse. It is sad that in these days which are the holiest and most solemn for all Christians, the deadly clamor of arms is louder than the sound of the bells announcing the Resurrection.”