Ukraine rejects Russian demand to return Mariupol in exchange for safe passage

As he continued his barrage on the besieged city of MariupolRussia demanded that Ukrainians lay down arms and raise white flags on Monday in exchange for safe passage out of town. Ukraine angrily rejected the offer, which came hours after officials said Russian forces had bombed an art school in the port city which was home to some 400 people.

While the struggle for control of the strategically important city has remained intense, Western governments and analysts see the wider conflict turning definitively into a war of attrition.

Russian Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev said his forces would allow two corridors out of Mariupol, heading either east towards Russia or west towards other parts of Ukraine. Mariupol residents had until 5 a.m. Monday to respond to the offer. Russia did not say what action it would take if rejected.

“There can be no talk of surrender, of laying down arms,” ​​Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk told Ukrainian media Pravda, rejecting Russia’s ultimatum. “We have already informed the Russian side about this.”

Evacuations from Mariupol in Ukraine
Civilians trapped in the city of Mariupol are evacuated.

Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


Mariupol Mayor Pyotr Andryushchenko also rejected the offer, saying in a Facebook post that he didn’t need to wait until morning to respond and cursing the Russians, according to the Interfax Ukraine news agency.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said authorities in Mariupol could face a military tribunal if they sided with what it called “bandits”, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Previous attempts to allow residents to evacuate Mariupol and other Ukrainian towns have failed or been only partially successful, with shelling continuing as civilians sought to flee.

Speaking in a video address early Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said around 400 civilians took refuge at the art school when it was hit by a Russian bomb.

“They are under the rubble, and we don’t know how many of them survived,” he said. “But we know we will definitely shoot down the pilot who dropped that bomb, like about 100 other mass murderers we’ve already shot down.”

APTOPIX Russia Ukraine War
This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies on Saturday, March 19, 2022 shows the aftermath of the airstrike on Ukraine’s Mariupol Drama Theater and the area around it.

Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies via AP


Tearful evacuees from the devastated Sea of ​​Azov port city described how “battles took place in all the streets”.

The fall of Mariupol would allow Russian forces in southern and eastern Ukraine to unite. But Western military analysts say that even if the encircled city is taken, troops fighting one block at a time for control may be too exhausted to help secure Russian breakthroughs on other fronts.

Roman and Svetlana Vodizanska, once a typical middle-class family, were bloodied and bruised after traveling with their children for five days from Lviv to escape Mariupol, which Svetlana called hell on earth.

“Hell is when you don’t know if you can take your next breath,” she told CBS News Imtiaz Tyab. “Hell is when everything is burning. Not just buildings, but when the ground is burning.”

Svetlana injured her head in a car accident while fleeing Russian strikes, which completely destroyed their home.

She called on the United States and President Biden to give arms to Ukraine.

“Please give us weapons. Give our country even a small chance to survive,” she said. “Help us please.”

Three weeks into the invasion, Western governments and analysts see the conflict moving towards a war of attrition, with bogged down Russian forces launch long-range missiles at cities and military bases as Ukrainian forces conduct blitzkrieg attacks and seek to cut their supply lines.

Moscow cannot hope to rule the country, Zelenskyy said on Monday, given Ukrainian hostility to Russian forces.


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The strike against the art school was the second time in less than a week that officials reported an attack on a public building where Mariupol residents had taken refuge. Wednesday, a bomb hit a theater where more than 1,000 people are said to have taken refuge. Ukrainian authorities have not given an update on the search for the theater since Friday, when they said at least 130 people had been rescued and another 1,300 trapped by rubble.

City officials and aid groups say food, water and electricity have run out in Mariupol and fighting has prevented aid convoys from entering. Communications are cut off. The city has been bombed for more than three weeks and has seen some of the worst horrors of the war. City officials said at least 2,300 people had died, some of them buried in mass graves.

Surprisingly strong Ukrainian resistance dashed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hopes of a quick victory after he ordered an invasion of his neighbor on February 24. In recent days, Russian forces have entered Mariupol. But taking the city could prove costly.

Servicemen of pro-Russian troops are seen on the outskirts of the besieged city of Mariupol
A man walks along a road past a tank operated by pro-Russian troops during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, on the outskirts of the besieged port city of Mariupol, March 20, 2022.

ALEXANDRE YERMOCHENKO/REUTERS


“Block-by-block fighting in Mariupol itself is costing the Russian military time, initiative and combat power,” the Washington-based Institute for the Study of Warfare said in a briefing. . In a direct assessment, the think tank concluded that Russia had failed in its initial campaign to quickly take the capital of Kyiv and other major cities.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the Ukrainian resistance means “Putin’s forces on the ground are essentially at a standstill”.

“It had the effect that he moved his forces into a wood chipper,” Austin told CBS News.Confront the Nation” on Sunday.


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03:21

In major cities across Ukraine, hundreds of men, women and children have been killed in Russian attacks.

Six other people were killed by shelling on Sunday in the densely populated Podil district, not far from the center of the capital kyiv, according to AP journalists present at the scene. The attack devastated a shopping center there, leaving a flattened ruin still smoldering on Monday morning amid high-rise towers. The force of the explosion shattered all the windows in the tower next door and twisted their metal frames.

In the distance, the sound of artillery rang out as firefighters fought their way through the destruction. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said Russian shelling hit several houses in Podil.

Russian troops have been shelling kyiv for a fourth week now and are trying to encircle the capital, which had a population of nearly 3 million before the war.

The UN has confirmed the death of 902 civilians during the war, but admits the true toll is likely much higher. It says nearly 3.4 million people have fled Ukraine. Estimates of Russian deaths vary, but even conservative figures are in the thousands. Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office said at least 115 children had been killed and 148 injured so far.

Estimates of Russian deaths vary, but even conservative figures are in the thousands.

Some Russians have also fled their country amid a widespread crackdown on dissent. Russia has arrested thousands of anti-war protesters, muzzled independent media and cut off access to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

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