Russian forces are using “powerful anti-bunker bombs” to shell the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, where civilians including children are sheltering underground alongside fighters defending the city, a senior Ukrainian government official said.

This came after residents of the city reported hearing powerful explosions on Tuesday afternoon around the Soviet-era steelworks, the last area of the besieged port city that is still under Ukrainian control.

“The world watches the murder of children online and remains silent,” Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, said in a tweet. “Religious & world leaders can stop it by organising humanitarian corridors. Otherwise, the blood will be on their hands, too.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Serhiy Taruta, a member of parliament and former governor of Donetsk, the region where Mariupol is located, said Russian forces had dropped a “powerful bomb on a hospital near Azovstal”.

“According to my information, there are about 300 people under the rubble, including children.”

The Financial Times could not independently verify the official’s claims.

Mariupol has suffered some of the severest Russian bombardment of the war, which entered a news phase in recent days after Moscow began a major offensive in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

Russia’s defence ministry gave fighters inside the plant an ultimatum on Tuesday to leave the plant, saying their lives would be spared if they stopped all military action from midday. Members of the Azov Battalion, a rightwing nationalist paramilitary group, are defending the city alongside Ukrainian marines, soldiers, border guards, and volunteer fighters.

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