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Moscow has claimed to have destroyed a major Western weapons shipment meant to reinforce Ukraine's defence of the Donbas, as the Russian army intensified its attempts to seize the key eastern region.
The weapons were in transit near the Malin Railway station, around 80 miles West of Kyiv, when they were hit by “high-precision long-range sea-based Kalibr missiles,” according to the Russian ministry of defence. Elsewhere, Russia also claimed to have destroyed a Ukrainian special-operations base in the Black Sea region of Odesa.
In another blow to Kyiv, Russia said that it had finally seized the Azovstal steel factory in Mariupol, which had become a symbol of Ukraine’s stoic defence.
The brutal three-month campaign in the city ended with the surrender of more than 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers.
The focus of the war is now in the Donbas region - a Russian-speaking area that has been partially controlled by pro-Kremlin separatists since 2014, where there is currently fierce fighting.
"They completely ruined Rubizhne, Vonokvakha, just as they did Mariupol," Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday, adding that the Russians were "trying to do the same with Severodonetsk and many other cities".
In Severodonetsk, a frontline city now at risk of encirclement, 12 people were killed and another 40 wounded by Russian shelling, the regional governor said.
Mr Zelensky described the bombardment as "brutal and absolutely pointless", as residents cowering in basements described an unending ordeal of terror.
The city forms part of the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in Luhansk, which along with the neighbouring region of Donetsk comprises the Donbas war zone.
The arms shipment was supposed to bolster Ukraine’s defences against the Russian offensive there.
Joe Biden, the US president, signed off another $40 billion aid package on Saturday, but there are fears other Western shipments could be targeted.
Since the outbreak of the war, Western countries have been supplying Kyiv with ever greater quantities of weapons, including artillery and ant-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.
The supplies have helped tipped the balance in Ukraine’s favour as it takes on its far mightier neighbour. British and American anti-tank missiles have effectively crippled Russia's tank advance.
But as Russian casualties mount, the Kremlin has made it clear that it considers such foreign supplies a legitimate target of war.
On Saturday, the Russian defence ministry said: "High-precision long-range sea-based Kalibr missiles destroyed a large batch of weapons and military equipment near the Malin railway station in Zhytomyr region delivered from the United States and European countries.”
They added that the weapons were bound for the Donbas region.
As fighting there intensifies, Ukrainians in the area are fleeing in droves, many after hanging on until the last moment.
Kristina, who did not give her surname, hid in the basement of her home for almost three months with her eight-year-old son and husband, only leaving after it was completely destroyed by Russian bombardment.
“We left five days ago because our house was smashed and we were left with three bags of things and that's it,” she told The Telegraph.
“In general, I rarely cry, but at that moment when they broke our house, I was in shock… I don't understand. Why us? Why?”
The family managed to escape during a break from heavy artillery fire, sprinting from their destroyed home to an abandoned car, while praying that more bombs did not fall.
Even as her home was reduced to rubble, Kristina said she never showed her son any sign of the fear that gripped her.
“Even when there were flights, I said that everything was fine. I would say we're safe, don't worry.”
The family is now in the Zaporizhzhia area but has “no idea” where to go next.
Kristina says she is not only worried for herself, but for the family she left behind: both her and her husband’s parents are too elderly to manage to leave.
“I cried the whole way when we left, for our land, for our parents,” she said.
Zelensky: Only diplomacy will end war
On Saturday, Mr Zelensky warned that only a diplomatic breakthrough rather than an outright military victory could end Russia's war on his country.
The conflict "will be bloody, there will be fighting but will only definitively end through diplomacy," he said, promising only that the result would be "fair" for Ukraine.
In an interview with Ukrainian television, he said Russia’s treatment of the Azovstal fighters from Mariupol will be crucial for Kyiv’s stance at future peace talks with Moscow.
Ukrainian officials have indicated that the men surrendered as part of a deal that would see them leave the plant safely and eventually return to government-controlled areas.
“We’re going to bring them home: This is what we have to do along with our partners who have taken responsibility” for the operation, he said, referring to several world leaders including the Turkish president who helped to bring about the deal.
He also revealed that Ukrainian helicopter pilots braved Russian anti-aircraft fire to ferry in medicine, food and water to the steel mill as well as to retrieve bodies and rescue wounded fighters.
A "very large" number of the pilots died on their daring missions, he said. "They are absolutely heroic people, who knew that it would be difficult, knew that to fly would be almost impossible."
In an attempt to seize control of the narrative, Russia’s defence ministry on Saturday released footage showing a handful of Ukrainian fighters with Nazi tattoos.
Videos showed several Azovstal fighters taking off their shirts to reveal tattoos of Hitler, swastikas and skull and bones resembling the Totenkopf symbol of the German SS.
Russian state media has been broadcasting the images to support their baseless claim that the invasion of Ukraine was about fighting Nazism.
A total of 2,439 Ukrainian troops have surrendered and exited Azovstal, according to the Russian military. Most of them belong to two Ukrainian army units and the Azov brigade which was formed as a volunteer battalion to fight off Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2014.
The battalion was known for its far-right leanings but it has since been incorporated into the Ukrainian armed forces and publicly discarded far-right ideology.