West sends aid as ‘Battle of Donbas’ rages

STORY: Russia was intensifying its attack on Ukraine's east on Tuesday as it sought a decisive victory in Mariupol, prompting Western governments to pledge more arms and sanctions.

Thousands of Russian troops backed by artillery and rocket barrages were advancing in what Ukrainian officials called the Battle of the Donbas.

Russia bombarded the Azovstal steel plant, the main remaining stronghold in Mariupol, with bunker-buster bombs, a Ukrainian presidential adviser said late on Tuesday, after an ultimatum by Russia for Ukrainian troops to lay down their weapons had lapsed.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy condemned Moscow for blocking "any attempts to organize humanitarian corridors and save people."

"The Russian army will forever inscribe itself in world history as perhaps the most barbaric and inhuman army in the world. Deliberately killing civilians, destroying residential quarters and civilian infrastructure, and using all kinds of weapons, including those prohibited by international conventions, is already the brand signature of the Russian army."

The United States, Canada, Britain, France and Germany on Tuesday pledged more support to Ukraine, including sending heavy artillery and ammunition.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby:

"I would just say without getting into what other nations are providing that they have received additional platforms and parts to be able to, to be able to increase their fleet size, their aircraft fleet size. I think I'd leave it at that."

In Mariupol, a humanitarian catastrophe has unfolded.

Tens of thousands of residents have been trapped with no access to food or water and bodies litter the streets. Ukraine believes more than 20,000 civilians have died there.

Russia has denied targeting civilians in its invasion of Ukraine and says, without evidence, that signs of atrocities were staged.

Video released by Ukraine's Azov battalion purported to show people living in the underground network beneath the steel plant, where they say hundreds of women, children and elderly civilians are sheltering with diminishing supplies.

"We lost our home; we lost our livelihood. We want to live a normal, peaceful life. We want to get out of here. There are lots of children in here - they're hungry. Get us out of here, we beg you. We've already cried out all the tears we have. We can't cry anymore."

Reuters could not independently verify where or when the video was shot.

Shells and rockets also hit Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, local officials said, wrecking apartment blocks and other buildings. Officials said four people were killed and 14 wounded.

Reuters journalists saw the bodies of three people apparently killed by shrapnel lying on the pavement.

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