Children trapped underground in Mariupol bunkers beg to see sunlight – The Telegraph

After weeks hiding from the Russian onslaught, families claim their children are suffering from a lack of vitamin D
Families hiding underground in besieged Mariupol claimed on Tuesday that the lack of sunlight was making their children ill, as Russian forces were accused of using “bunker-buster” bombs.
In video footage of families hiding in Mariupol’s vast Azovstal metal plant, one mother complained that her three children were suffering from Vitamin D deficiency after weeks without daylight.
“The conditions are not great for kids here,” she said. “Children’s teeth are getting worse. They’re lacking in vitamin D. There’s no sun.”
Up to 1,000 civilians have taken refuge in the warren-like network of service tunnels and utility passages that lie beneath the plant, which is also where Mariupol’s last Ukrainian defenders have holed up.
Denys Prokopenko, commander of Ukraine’s Azov battalion, which has around 500 troops in the plant, said powerful “bunker-buster” bombs were being used to force those hiding in the plant to give themselves up.
“There are many children (here) of all ages, women, elderly people,” he said. “They found their only available shelter next to the Ukrainian troops who are still defending the city from Russian invaders.
“Russian occupation forces … know perfectly well about the civilians here, and they keep using bunker-buster bombs, shelling them with missiles and all varieties of artillery.”
On Tuesday, Russia’s defence ministry issued a fresh ultimatum to the Ukrainian troops to give up, saying their lives would be spared if they laid down their weapons by noon Moscow time (10 am UK time). The Azov battalion ignored a similar ultimatum issued on Sunday.
Moscow’s defence ministry urged Kyiv authorities to put pressure on Ukrainian forces in Mariupol “to stop the senseless resistance”. A statement added: “But realising that the commanders of Ukrainian units may not receive such commands from the Kyiv authorities, we urge them to make such a decision on their own and to lay down their arms.”
Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Russia’s Chechnya region and an ally of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, predicted that Russian forces would completely take over the metalworks by Tuesday night.
“Today, with the help of the Almighty, we will… take over Azovstal completely,” Kadyrov said in an audio message on his Telegram channel.
The Soviet-built Azovstal plant is one of the largest metallurgical factories in Europe, spanning four square miles along the city’s waterfront. Ukrainian forces have heavily fortified the plant, which is so large that control of Mariupol will be difficult for Russia to achieve without seizing it.
“The Azovstal factory is an enormous space with so many buildings that the Russians… simply can’t find (the Ukrainian forces),” said Oleh Zhdanov, a military analyst based in Kyiv.
He warned that the Russians were “considering a chemical attack” to “smoke out” those sheltering in the plant.
Yan Gagin, an adviser to the Donetsk People’s Republic, the pro-Kremlin enclave of eastern Ukraine that is helping the Russians to attack Mariupol, added: “Under the city, there is basically another city.”
Ukraine says that up to 20,000 people have been killed during fighting in Mariupol, which has suffered extensive shelling during Russia’s 50-day siege. According to the World Food Programme, around 100,000 civilians are still trapped in the city overall, most “in dire need of food, water and other essential supplies”.
The World Health Organisation said on Tuesday that it was struggling to deliver two generators to hospitals in Mariupol, where electricity supplies have largely been cut.
Video footage captured in the city shows miles of residential blocks in charred ruins. Shell-shocked residents in the Primorsky district could be seen cooking on open fires outside their destroyed homes.
“We are not well,” one resident named Olga said. “I have mental problems after air strikes, that’s for sure. I’m really scared. When I hear a plane I just run.”
On Tuesday, Sergiy Taruta, a Mariupol native and former governor, said several hundreds of people could be trapped in the rubble at a hospital that was bombed earlier that day.
“The Russian Nazis have dropped a heavy bomb on a hospital near Azovstal,” he said. 
“There are about 300 people including children trapped in the rubble,” he said.
The fall of the city would give Putin his biggest victory of the war, allowing the Kremlin full control of a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized in 2014, and depriving Ukraine of a major port and industrial assets.
Major Serhiy Volyna, commander of Ukraine’s 36th marine brigade, another unit still fighting in Mariupol, appealed for help in a letter to Pope Francis.
“This is what hell looks like on earth… It’s time (for) help not just by prayers. Save our lives from satanic hands,” he wrote.
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