UKRAINE: Ukrainian soldiers resisted a Russian ultimatum to lay down arms on Sunday in the pulverised port of Mariupol, which Moscow said its forces had almost completely seized in what would be its biggest prize of the nearly two-month war.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said troops in Mariupol were still fighting despite a Russian demand to surrender by dawn.
“The city still has not fallen,” he told ABC’s This Week programme, adding that Ukrainian soldiers continue to control some parts of the southeastern Ukrainian city.
Russia said on Saturday it had control of urban areas, with some Ukrainian fighters remaining in the Azovstal steelworks overlooking the Sea of Azov.
Capturing Mariupol, the main port in the Donbas region, would be a strategic prize for Russia, connecting territory held by pro-Russian separatists in the east with the Crimea region that Moscow annexed in 2014.
After failing to overcome Ukrainian resistance in the north, the Russian military has refocused its ground offensive on Donbas while launching long-distance strikes at targets elsewhere including the capital, Kyiv.
About four million Ukrainians have fled the country, cities have been shattered and thousands have died since the start of the invasion on February 24. The economic damage is significant too – Shmyhal said Ukraine’s budget deficit was around US$5 billion (S$6.8 billion) a month and called for Western Governments to provide more financial aid.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Twitter he had discussed ensuring Ukraine’s financial stability and preparations for post-war reconstruction with International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva.
She replied that support was “essential to lay the foundations for rebuilding a modern competitive #Ukraine.”
Russia said Ukraine had lost more than 4,000 soldiers in Mariupol as of Saturday.
Kyiv says its total troop losses nationwide so far in the war are less than that, between 2,500 and 3,000. Reuters has not been able to verify either side’s figures.
The relentless bombardment and street fighting in Mariupol have killed at least 21,000 people, by the Ukrainians’ estimate. A maternity hospital was hit by a lethal Russian airstrike in the opening weeks of the war, and about 300 people were reported killed in the bombing of a theater where civilians were taking shelter.
An estimated 100,000 remained in the city out of a prewar population of 450,000, trapped without food, water, heat or electricity in a siege that has made Mariupol the scene of some of the worst suffering of the war.
– THE STRAITS TIMES, JAPAN TODAY