Ukraine has rejected Russia’s demand for its forces in Mariupol to surrender amid Russia’s siege of the eastern port city, and allow civilians to leave through a refugee corridor.
Despite apparent Russian efforts to avoid civilian casualties, the siege of Mariupol continues unabated, with members of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi Azov Battalion putting up resistance in various pockets of the city’s industrial district.
“Mikhail Mizintsev, the head of the Defense Ministry’s National Defense Control Center, had said Kyiv must respond to Russia’s offer by 5 a.m. Moscow time on Monday, according to Interfax,” the Wall Street Journal reported, adding that “a terrible humanitarian catastrophe has developed” in the city.
“All who lay down their arms are guaranteed safe passage out of Mariupol,” Mizintsev reportedly said.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk rejected the ultimatum and dismissed the possibility of surrender hours after it was made.
“There can be no talk of any surrender, laying down of arms. We have already informed the Russian side about this,” she told local news outlet Ukrainian Pravda, per the Times of Israel. “I wrote: ‘Instead of wasting time on eight pages of letters, just open the corridor.'”
Russia has made previous efforts to reach a ceasefire with Ukrainian forces in order to facilitate the evacuation of Mariupol and other Ukrainian cities, however, their overtures have been repeatedly ignored by Ukrainian resistance, with the Ukrainian government accusing Russia of continuing its bombardments of heavily fortified military positions.
With parts of the city in ruin, Mariupol authorities say nearly 10 per cent of the city’s population of 430,000 have evacuated over the past week. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claims that “Russian forces have come to exterminate us, to kill us.”
The fall of the port city will enable Russian forces in the southern and eastern flanks to link up and take full control of Ukraine’s coast along the Sea of Azov, which Ukraine’s most infamous battalion is named after.
As the siege of Mariupol continues, Turkey says that Russia and Ukraine have made significant progress on their negotiations, and are “close to an agreement” on a ceasefire.
“I’m ready for negotiations with him. I was ready for the last two years. And I think that without negotiations, we cannot end this war,” Zelensky told CNN on Sunday. “If there’s just a 1 per cent chance for us to stop this war, I think that we need to take this chance. We need to do that.”
“Dialogue is the only way out,” Zelensky added. “I think it’s just the two of us, me and Putin, who can make an agreement on this.”