Anguish for partners of Mariupol’s defenders as Russian assault goes on

Amid reports of grim conditions inside the Azovstal steelworks, wives try to rally support for an evacuation of remaining Ukrainian troops

• Russia-Ukraine war: latest developments

“Holding up”, wrote Denys Prokopenko, commander of Ukraine’s Azov regiment, in his latest WhatsApp message to his wife Kateryna from the besieged Azovstal steelworks in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.

Speaking via Zoom from Krakow, in eastern Poland, alongside three fellow wives and partners of soldiers living under the remorseless Russian shelling and infiltrating raids, Kateryna, 27, says she is doing everything she can think of to ensure the message at 10pm on Friday evening is not one of her husband’s last.

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