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Russia Ukraine conflict

Armed civilians fighting pro-Russian forces in Mariupol: Official

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A pro-Russian separatist official in eastern Ukraine acknowledged Thursday that armed civilians were fighting alongside the Ukrainian army in the besieged city of Mariupol.

Eduard Basurin, a senior official in the self-proclaimed breakaway stronghold of Donetsk, estimated that up to 3,500 Ukrainian troops were taking part in fighting, which he said centered around the city’s Azovstal iron and steel works and port.

“But you have to take into account the fact that some residents of Mariupol have taken up arms. Therefore that number could be higher,” he said in remarks broadcast on Russian television.

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Mariupol, located in a strategic southeastern spot between Russia-occupied Crimea and pro-Russian separatist regions in Ukraine’s east, has been the scene of some of the fiercest assaults by Moscow’s forces.

Residents have spoken of utter devastation and dire conditions. The city’s population has shrunk from 400,000 before the war to around 120,000 today.

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