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Russian forces attempted to storm the Ukrainian-held Azovstal steel plant in the besieged southeastern city of Mariupol on Sunday (Apr 24), Ukrainian officials said, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin s comments last week that the complex did not need to be taken.

Ukraine s armed forces command wrote on Facebook that Russian forces were firing and performing “offensive operations” in the Azovstal area, as well as conducting air strikes on civilian infrastructure.

Read more: Russia vows to win ‘full control’ of east, south Ukraine

Serhiy Volyna, commander of Ukraine s 36th Marine brigade forces in Mariupol, said in an interview with an opposition lawmaker that was shown on YouTube on Sunday that Russia was hitting the complex with air and artillery bombardments.

“We are taking casualties, the situation is critical … we have very many wounded men, (some) are dying, it s a difficult (situation) with guns, ammunition, food, medicines … the situation is rapidly worsening,” Volyna said, speaking from his location at the plant.

Konstantin Ivaschenko, the official who has been designated mayor of Mariupol by Russia but not recognised as such by Ukraine, denied that any fighting was taking place in the city in comments reported by Russian news outlet TASS on Sunday.

Reuters could not independently verify the Ukrainian or Russian the accounts.

The Azovstal steel factory is the main remaining Ukrainian stronghold in Mariupol, a city that has seen sustained bombardment since the start of the Russian invasion on Feb 24.

Earlier on Sunday, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych wrote on Facebook that “Russian troops are trying to finish off the defenders of Azovstal and more than 1,000 civilians who are hiding at the plant”.

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