Mariupol in last siege; Ukrainian armed forces ‘will fight to the end’

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Ukrainian forces resisted Russian demands to surrender in the key port city of Mariupol by Sunday, although the situation appeared grim as forces holed up in the bombed-out city, where tens of thousands of stranded civilians are struggling to access basic necessities.

Analysts expect Russia to soon seize the devastated city while refocusing its military might on Ukraine’s eastern region after failing to capture the capital, Kyiv.

The struggle for control of eastern and southern cities is the final phase of a war now entering its eighth week as Russia seeks to consolidate its grip on an area that provides strategic access points to the Black Sea and beyond. Ukrainian leaders, meanwhile, pleaded for additional US support on the Sunday news programs.

That Officials said besieged cities, including Mariupol, remained under their control but described conditions as increasingly dire.

Why Russia Abandoned the City War in Kyiv and Turned to the Great Battles in the East

The “city still hasn’t fallen,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Sunday on ABC’s This Week. “There is still our armed forces, our soldiers. So you will fight to the end.

Russia had given Ukrainian forces in Mariupol a deadline of 6 a.m. Sunday local time (11 p.m. Saturday EST) for Ukrainian forces in Mariupol to surrender. Russia said it broadcast its orders every 30 minutes throughout the night and vowed to guarantee the lives of those who laid down their arms according to state media, within five hours immediately after the deadline.

Troops have been besieging the port city for more than a month in a Russian attempt to seize control of the entire Azov Sea coast. This would give Russia control of land and sea between the territories he owns in eastern Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula, which he annexed in 2014.

An estimated 100,000 civilians, less than a quarter of the pre-war population, remain without food, water, warmth and humanitarian assistance in Mariupol with a few exceptions. Mariupol emerged as an early focal point of the war with horrific scenes that caught the world’s attention, including the bombing of a maternity ward and a theater where hundreds took refuge.

Ukraine governor says Mariupol has ‘disappeared from the face of the earth’

Moscow claims that the remaining pro-Ukrainian forces in Mariupol have lost control of everything but the Azovstal Steel Plant, one of the largest metallurgical plants in Europe. The Washington Post cannot confirm this claim, and Ukrainian authorities say they have troops elsewhere in the city.

According to an assessment by the Institute for the Study of War, a think tank, Russian forces on Saturday “probably captured” the Mariupol port area and further reduced Ukraine’s defenses outside the factory. The report refers to footage of Russian forces at numerous “key locations”, including the port itself.

“Scattered groups of Ukrainian troops may remain active in Mariupol outside the Azovstal factory, but they are likely to be evacuated by Russian forces in the coming days,” the institute’s latest assessment reads.

The assessment adds that Russian forces could attempt to force the remaining defenders at the factory into “surrender through overwhelming firepower.” Ukrainian forces, it is said, “appear determined to make a last stand.”

Moscow claims the Ukrainian government banned surrender negotiations at the plant, citing intercepted radio communications. Russian officials threatened those who remained.

“If there is further resistance, they will all be eliminated,” the Russian Defense Ministry posted on the messaging app Telegram.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Ukrainian media that negotiations between the two sides could end if Russian forces kill all Ukrainians defending the city.

Analysts predict Mariupol will be the first major Ukrainian city to fall under Russian control, and Ukrainian officials have described the city as all but lost.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told CBS’ Face the Nation that Mariupol “no longer exists” and is facing a situation that is “militarily dire and heartbreaking.”

Russian armed forces issue permits for movement in areas under their control in Mariupol. From the coming days, they will be needed by everyone leaving their homes, said Petro Andrushchenko, an adviser to the Ukrainian mayor of Mariupol.

Russia on Sunday failed to agree on a ceasefire to allow the evacuation of civilians, including from Mariupol, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

“We are working hard to get the humanitarian corridors up and running again as soon as possible,” she added.

Control of all of Mariupol would mark a significant turning point for Russia, which was struggling to capture major cities after its early occupation of Kherson in the south. Russian President Vladimir Putin is under pressure at home to show gains for a war that has killed thousands of Russian troops, the exact number is unclear, and has caused widespread economic hardship through sanctions.

Russia’s eastern pivot is encroaching into friendlier territory where pro-Moscow separatists have fought for years. Analysts say the open terrain in the energy-rich industrial Donbass region is better for Russian troops, who have fought in urban battles where Ukrainian forces have had the advantage.

“They want to literally finish off and destroy Donbass. Destroy everything that once gave glory to this industrial region,” Zelenskyy said in a televised address on Sunday. “Just as Russian troops are destroying Mariupol, they want to wipe out other towns and cities in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.”

Ukrainian officials confirmed the country’s finance team will meet with officials from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the US Treasury Department in Washington this week. World Bank officials are planning a $3 billion package to help Ukraine.

The prime minister said financial support is essential as the country runs a $5 billion monthly deficit.

“We need more finance to support our people, our refugees, our internally displaced people – to save our economy for future recovery,” Shmyhal said in This Week.

World Bank economists recently estimated that Ukraine’s economy could shrink by 45 percent this year, depending on the length and severity of the conflict. An economic collapse of this magnitude would dwarf the 11.2 percent that Russia’s economy is expected to shrink over the same period due to unprecedented sanctions, and would exacerbate the region’s humanitarian crisis.

The European Union is providing an additional 50 million euros ($54 million) in humanitarian aid as part of its 1 billion euro pledge, officials announced on Sunday.

The money is intended to help people in “hard-to-reach areas, cut off from access to health care, water and electricity, and those who have been forced to flee and have had to leave everything behind,” Janez Lenarcic, Commissioner for Crisis Management, said in the statement, adding that the European Union must prepare for an escalation in Russian attacks, mainly in eastern Ukraine.

Reports of casualties from other eastern Ukrainian regions continued. Five people died and 13 were injured in strikes in Kharkiv on Sunday, local officials said. They are among 18 dead and 106 wounded in the Russian shelling of Kharkiv over the past four days, Zelenskyy said Sunday.

Earlier Sunday, Oleh Synyehubov, head of the Kharkiv regional administration, said three people had been killed and 31 injured in the past 24 hours. He appealed to those who were still in the Kharkiv region not to take to the streets.

A restaurant partner of World Central Kitchen in Kharkiv is moving after a rocket hit the building where a team of volunteers cooked free meals for residents, injuring four employees, CEO Nate Mook said Sunday.

“That’s the reality here – cooking is a heroic act of bravery,” he said on Twitter.

The head of another humanitarian organization described the food sourcing challenges in different areas.

“I’ve seen places where there’s nothing but food in these camps, and that’s not even in Mariupol,” David Beasley, head of the UN World Food Program, told Face the Nation. “There is no question that food is used here in many different ways as a weapon of war.”

The governor of the eastern Luhansk region said on Sunday that Russian shelling hit a residential area of ​​Zolote, killing two people and wounding four. Local Ukrainian officials also accused Russia of shelling a church in the city of Severodonetsk on Sunday.

Russian missile attacks in the Kyiv area continued over the weekend, although forces turned east. At least one person was killed and several injured in an attack on the capital on Saturday, the mayor said. Another strike hit the Kiev suburb of Brovary.

Officials also said they pulled another body on Sunday from the ruins of apartment buildings in the Kiev suburb of Borodyanka that had been shelled earlier in the month. The death toll from the attack, which leveled much of the suburb, is expected to rise as authorities search the rubble of two other destroyed buildings.

In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper that aired on Sunday, the President of Ukraine said that world leaders are not making good on the promise of “never again” after the Holocaust.

“We don’t believe the words,” Zelenskyj said. “After Russia’s escalation, we don’t believe our neighbors. We don’t believe any of that.”

Demonstrations against Russia’s war in Ukraine took place across Europe over the weekend, including in Amsterdam, Berlin and Barcelona, ​​as well as outside the British Prime Minister’s office in London.

Pope Francis called for “peace for war-torn Ukraine” in his Easter address to tens of thousands of believers in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican.

“We’ve seen way too much blood, way too much violence,” he said. “Our hearts are also filled with fear and anguish as so many of our brothers and sisters have had to lock themselves up to be safe from bombing raids.”

Zelenskyy also referred to Easter in his Sunday address and described the holiday as a celebration of the victory of life over death.

“I wish you to keep the light of your soul even in this dark time of war against our state,” he said. “To see how good will soon surely conquer evil for the good of our country, and how the truth will overcome all the lies of the occupiers.”

Andrew Van Dam, Hannah Knowles and Paulina Villegas in Washington; Julian Duplain in London; Bryan Pietsch in Seoul; and David L. Stern in Mukachevo, Ukraine, contributed to this report.

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