NewsWorldTransport plane crashes in south Ukraine on technical flight, casualties reported

Transport plane crashes in south Ukraine on technical flight, casualties reported

A Ukrainian AN-26 transport plane crashed during a “technical flight” in southern Ukraine on Friday and there were casualties, local authorities said.

Details of the crash, in the Zaporizhzhia region, were being verified.

At the same time, Ukrainian fighters were clinging to their last redoubt in Mariupol on Friday after Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed victory in the biggest battle of the war.

He declared the port city “liberated” following weeks of relentless bombardment.

The United States, however, disputed Putin’s claim and said it believed Ukrainian forces still held ground in the city. Putin ordered his troops to blockade a giant steel works where the Ukrainians are holding out, having refused an ultimatum to surrender or die.

Ukraine said Putin wanted to avoid a final clash with its forces in Mariupol, as he lacked troops to defeat them. But Ukrainian officials also appealed for help to evacuate civilians and wounded soldiers.

In a televised meeting at the Kremlin, Putin congratulated his defence minister and Russian troops for the “combat effort to liberate Mariupol” and said it was unnecessary to storm the industrial zone containing the Azovstal steel plant.

“There’s no need to climb into these catacombs and crawl underground through these industrial facilities … Block off this industrial area so that not even a fly can get through,” Putin said.

Mariupol, a major port in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, sits between areas held by Russian separatists and Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula Moscow seized in 2014. Capturing the city would allow Russia to link the two areas. Read full story

Even as Putin claims his first big prize since his forces were driven away from the capital Kyiv and northern Ukraine last month, it falls short of the unambiguous victory Moscow has sought after months of combat in a city reduced to rubble.

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