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Ukraine-Russia War: Live Updates – The New York Times

The wives of fighters trapped at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol called on China to help convince President Vladimir V. Putin to accept a Turkish evacuation offer, as Russian forces continued to bombard the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance in the city.

Hundreds of fighters — many of them wounded — are believed to be in bunkers beneath the sprawling factory complex. In dire messages on social media, commanders have warned supplies are running out.

Relatives of the besieged fighters have made impassioned international pleas, including on a visit this week to the pope, to help save their loved ones. On Saturday, some relatives held a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, and urged President Xi Jinping of China to intervene.

“We are addressing Xi Jinping. He is Putin’s economic partner and Putin can enter into a dialogue with him,” said Anna Ivleeva, whose husband is inside the plant. “We urge him to conduct a fruitful dialogue and, through the extraction procedure, to bring our fighters to a third country, which may be Turkey.”

Turkey, which has been trying to help facilitate the evacuation of civilians and wounded soldiers from Mariupol, welcomed the wives’ efforts to garner international support.

“We take these appeals very seriously,” Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said in an interview. “It’s a war zone, and if you save one person it is a blessing.”

China has repeatedly called for peace talks in Ukraine, but Chinese propaganda has challenged Western efforts to isolate Russia diplomatically, and Beijing has sought to walk a careful line in its statements toward the war. In recent years, Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin have largely embraced each other, declaring that their countries’ friendship had “no limits.”

Turkey hosted two rounds of talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations to try and negotiate a cease-fire early in the war. Its recent efforts to release wounded soldiers have not made headway.

As the last stand in Mariupol, the southern city that has been left in ruins by weeks of shelling, the Azovstal plant has become a powerful symbol for Ukrainians, and the fate of the remaining fighters — many wounded, and all of them surviving on ever more meager rations — is being closely watched.

It also has symbolic importance for Mr. Putin: Some fighters inside belong to the Ukrainian military’s Azov Regiment, whose origins in a far-right military group, the Azov Batallion, have slow a veneer of credibility to the Russian president’s false narrative that the country is overrun by “Nazis.”

Not everyone still trapped at Azovstal is from the regiment, according to Ukrainian officials. Some are from the national guard, border service, and the military and security services. The Azov Regiment has said there are some 600 wounded inside the plant but has not revealed how many fighters remain overall.

Russian forces appear to have secured the M14 highway near the plant’s western entrance and continued to launch shells and airstrikes, according to a report by the Institute for the Study of War. Ukraine’s military said Saturday that Russia was launching “massive artillery and airstrikes” near the plant.

After a successful evacuation of civilians from the plant, coordinated by the United Nations and the Red Cross, calls have been mounted for similar efforts to save the fighters.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk of Ukraine, who helped coordinate the civilian evacuations, said officials were pursuing “complex talks” but warned that “there are no miracles in war.”

“God willing, we will rescue everyone,” she said. “The country’s heart is now in the Azovstal plant.”

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