On the 53rd day of the war, Russia demanded the surrender of Ukrainian soldiers resisting in Mariupol and pledged to spare the lives of those who lay down their weapons. Yesterday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that taking the city would end peace talks with Moscow.
The head of the Russian Defense Control Center, Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, said that “all those [ucranianos] those who lay down their arms are guaranteed to have their lives spared.” According to Mizintsev, Ukrainian fighters are “in a desperate situation, with virtually no food and water.”
The Russian Defense Ministry says that Russian troops have already occupied the entire urban area of Mariupol, leaving only a group of Ukrainian fighters in a steel mill. Moscow’s claim, however, cannot be independently verified.
The scene of the heaviest combatants and the worst humanitarian catastrophe of the war, Mariupol could be the first major city to be taken by Russia since the start of the conflict.
Attacks around Kiev continue
Also this Sunday (17) the offensive against the capital continues. During the night, an ammunition factory in Brovary, in the Kiev region, was destroyed. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed responsibility and said the attack was carried out with high-precision air missiles.
According to the mayor of Brovary, Ihor Sapozhko, missiles hit the city’s infrastructure and there was a power outage. Teams work for restoration. Water and sewage supplies were also affected, but Sapozhko says he is also working to restore them.
Why is Mariupol important?
Situated on the Sea of Azov, Mariupol is one of the main goals of the Russians in the effort to gain full control of the Donbass region and form a land corridor in eastern Ukraine from the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014. The fall of the city would be Russia’s biggest victory in more than 50 days of war.
Described as a fortress in the city, there is a steel mill in an industrial region overlooking the Sea of Azov that occupies an area of more than 11 square kilometers. Marines, as well as fighters from the national guard and the Azov Battalion – a far-right nationalist militia, would be at the scene. There is no information on the number of fighters on the ground.
There has still been no response from Kiev to the Russian ultimatum.
Mariupol takeover would end negotiations
Zelensky said yesterday that the elimination of Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol “would end any peace negotiations” with Moscow.
“The elimination of our military, of our men [em Mariupol] will end any peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine,” Zelensky said during an interview with Ukrainska Pravda, in which he also warned that both sides would be in a “dead end”.
In a speech to the nation on Saturday night, Zelensky said that “the situation in Mariupol remains as serious as possible, simply inhumane” and blamed Russia for “deliberately continuing to destroy cities”.
The Ukrainian president stressed that the Russians “deliberately try to annihilate all those who remain in Mariupol”. He added that the Ukrainian government had tried, since the beginning of the Russian invasion, to find “a solution, military or diplomatic, to save” the population, but “until now, there has not been a 100% solid option”.
Under siege for weeks, Mariupol faces one of the biggest humanitarian catastrophes of the current conflict. The city was the target of intense bombing and is in ruins. According to local authorities, at least 20,000 civilians have died in the region since the beginning of the Russian invasion, and about 120,000 people are still in the besieged city.
Russian troops announced on Friday that they had taken control of another steelworks in the city that was one of the Ukrainian defense points. Reuters journalists were at the scene and reported that the steelworks had been reduced to ruins and also reported the presence of several civilian bodies scattered in the nearby streets.
*With information from Deutsche Welle and AFP