Mariupol official warns of ‘last days’ as Russia demands Ukrainian troops surrender

LONDON — Ukraine’s port city of Mariupol is facing its “last days, if not hours,” a commander in the besieged city revealed this week as Russian forces gave Ukrainian soldiers until noon on Wednesday to surrender — a deadline the Ukrainians let expire.

Thousands of civilians and Ukrainian troops are sheltered in a steel plant, the last remaining stronghold of the city. However, the building is surrounded by Russian forces, leaving the people inside with no access to “normal” supplies of food and water, an adviser for the city’s mayor said.

A woman crying in front of a destroyed apartment building.
A woman stands near her destroyed apartment building in Mariupol on Tuesday. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)
“The enemy is outnumbering us 10 to 1,” Serhiy Volyna, a commander from the 36th Separate Marine Brigade, wrote on Facebook on Wednesday. “We appeal and plead to all world leaders to help us. We ask them to use the procedure of extraction and take us to the territory of a third-party state.”

In recent days, Russian forces have intensified their push in the Donbas region, claiming the city of Kreminna in a new offensive to take eastern Ukraine. Russia has been trying to take full control of Mariupol since Feb. 24, when it launched its invasion. Taking control of Donbas would mean Russia would have a southern land corridor to the annexed Crimean Peninsula, which has been occupied by Kremlin forces since 2014.

Russian military vehicles in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces near Mariupol.
Russian military vehicles in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces near Mariupol on Monday. (Alexei Alexandrov/AP)
According to Reuters, thousands of Russian troops, backed by artillery, are attempting to advance in what has been coined the “Battle of Donbas.” Moscow intends to seize the two eastern provinces that had already been claimed on behalf of separatists.

On Tuesday, the Azovstal steel plant, believed to be the last major pocket of resistance in Mariupol, was a target of Russian airstrikes. Footage released from Mariupol’s City Council appeared to show the aftermath of a strike on the devastated plant. This led to Ukrainian troops accusing enemy forces of bombing a hospital that was sheltering 300 people — including wounded soldiers and children. The deputy commander of the Azov regiment alleged that Kremlin-led forces had dropped bombs on the steel plant where the “improvised” hospital was.

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