Russia wants to take control of Mariupol

Russian troops are relentless in their attack on Mariupol, a strategic port city in southeastern Ukraine. Local media say the mayor fled.

A US think tank says Russian forces have seized a church in the central area and are now making efforts to take over the entire town.

Pro-Moscow separatists say their leader, Denis Pushilin, entered Mariupol on Thursday with a Russian lawmaker. He reportedly visited a shopping mall, where Russian troops were distributing food to citizens.

The humanitarian crisis worsens just over a month after the invasion.

According to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, at least 6,000 Mariupol residents were forcibly deported to Russia.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said they were being sent to less developed regions, including Sakhalin in Russia’s far east. The ministry says they are being offered jobs and will not be allowed to leave for two years.

The Mariupol city council cites witnesses as saying around 300 people were killed in a theater bombed by Russian troops last week.

Elsewhere, Russia’s advance on kyiv has stalled.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Ukraine had reoccupied towns and defensive positions up to 35 kilometers east of the capital. The ministry also says Russian troops are struggling with issues such as overextended supply lines.

US President Joe Biden is visiting Poland, which has taken in more than two million people fleeing Ukraine.

The visit comes after he attended a meeting of NATO leaders in Brussels on Thursday. They reaffirmed their unity and pledged to ensure that the countries of Eastern Europe are safe from the threat posed by Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the summit. He said the Russian army used phosphorus bombs. They are not designated as chemical weapons, but are widely considered inhumane.