An aerial view of damaged residential buildings and the Azovstal steel plant in the background in the port city of Mariupol on May 18, 2022, amid the ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine. -AFP
Russia has declared victory in its months-long operation to capture the strategic port of Mariupol after Ukraine ordered the last of its troops holed up in the city's Azovstal steelworks to lay down their arms.
Moscow's flattening of Mariupol has drawn multiple accusations of war crimes, including over a deadly attack on a maternity ward, and Ukraine has begun a legal reckoning for captured Russian troops, AFP reports.
The first post-invasion trial of a Russian soldier for war crimes neared its climax in Kyiv on Friday, after 21-year-old sergeant Vadim Shishimarin admitted to killing an unarmed civilian early in the offensive. The verdict is due Monday.
Shishimarin told the court he was "truly sorry". But his lawyer said in closing arguments that the young soldier was "not guilty" of premeditated murder and war crimes.
Since Ukrainian forces fended off the Russian offensive around Kyiv both eastern Ukraine and Mariupol in the south have borne the brunt of a remorseless ground and artillery attack.
The fighting is fiercest in the eastern region of Donbas, a Russian-speaking area that has been partially controlled by pro-Kremlin separatists since 2014.
"Attempts to attack Donbas continue. They completely ruined Rubizhne, Vonokvakha, just as Mariupol," President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly video address late Friday, adding the Russians were "trying to do the same with Severodonetsk and many other cities".
In the eastern city of Severodonetsk, 12 people were killed and another 40 wounded by Russian shelling, the regional governor said.