In anticipation of possible atrocities, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine accused Russia of “deliberately trying to destroy everyone” at the plant. He said he would refuse further peace talks with Moscow if its forces committed more atrocities.
Mr. Andryushchenko raised disturbing reports that Russian forces were using Ukrainian civilians as human shields, putting them at risk of being killed.
Outside the plant, Russian soldiers were leading civilians to the front line, he said, forcing them to register for “mobile passes” at an office close to the line of fighting, about three miles from the steel plant.
The office had been installed last week by Konstantin Ivashchenko, who was recently named the “new mayor” of Mariupol by the Kremlin-backed separatist government calling itself the Donetsk People’s Republic. The passes, the existence of which has also been reported by Mariupol’s police, are required for residents to walk outside.
“Some are walking long distances to the office, up to 10 miles, and then they are waiting in long lines,” Mr. Andryushchenko said. The civilians are required to wear white bands on their arms and legs. Russian solders typically wear such bands, he said, raising the possibility that they are intentionally endangering the Ukrainian civilians.