Moscow says scuppers attempt to evacuate Azov commanders from Mariupol

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Moscow said Saturday Russian troops had opened fire on a Ukrainian vessel trying to evacuate commanders of the Azov battalion from the besieged city of Mariupol.

“The Kyiv regime is not abandoning attempts to evacuate the leaders of the nationalist Azov regiment and foreign mercenaries from Mariupol,” the Russian defense ministry said in a statement.

On Friday night, Russian forces opened artillery fire on a Ukrainian cargo vessel when it suddenly changed course and tried to break through the blockade of the port of Mariupol.

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As a result of the strike the Maltese-flagged vessel, the Apache, caught fire and said it would surrender to Russia’s demands.

Moscow said there were no casualties among the ship’s crew. The Apache and its crew were now being escorted to the southern Russian port of Yeysk.

Members of the Azov battalion have been fighting Russians in the besieged city of Mariupol, located in the country’s southeast between Russia-occupied Crimea and pro-Russian separatist regions in Ukraine’s east.

The Azov Special Operations Detachment, previously known as the “Azov Battalion,” has been at the heart of Moscow’s propaganda campaign accusing the Kyiv authorities of ties to Nazi elements.

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