Ukraine rejects Russian demand to surrender port city in exchange for safe passage

As it continued its barrage of the besieged city of Mariupol, Russia demanded that Ukrainians put down their 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 that was sheltering some 400 people.

While the battle for the control of this strategically vital city was intense, analysts and Western governments see the larger conflict moving definitively towards a war against attrition.

Russian Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev said his forces would allow two corridors out of Mariupol, heading either east toward Russia or west to other parts of Ukraine. Mariupol residents had until Monday morning to reply to the offer. Russia did not specify what actions it would take in the event of its rejection.

” There can’t be any talk of surrendering, laying down arms,” Irina Vereshchuk, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister, told Ukrainian Pravda. She was rejecting Russia‚Äôs ultimatum. We have informed Russia about it. “

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

Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Mariupol Mayor Piotr Andryushchenko also rejected the offer, saying in a Facebook post that he didn’t need to wait until morning to respond and cursing at the Russians, according to the news agency Interfax Ukraine. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, authorities in Mariupol may face a military tribunal if it sides with “bandits,” according to the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

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

Speaking in a video address early Monday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said about 400 civilians were taking shelter at the art school when it was struck by a Russian bomb. They are now under rubble and it is unknown how many have survived,” Zelenskyy said. “But we know that we will certainly shoot down the pilot who dropped that bomb, like about 100 other such mass murderers whom we already have downed. “

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

Satellite image (c)2022 Maxar Technologies via AP

Tearful evacuees from the devastated Azov Sea port city have described how “battles took place over every street. “

Russian forces would be able to connect with each other if Mariupol falls. However, Western military experts warn that the soldiers fighting one block at a given time to take control of the city may not be able to secure Russian advances on other fronts.

Three weeks into the invasion, Western governments and analysts see the conflict shifting to a war of attrition, with bogged down Russian forces launching long-range missiles at cities and military bases as Ukrainian forces carry out hit-and-run attacks and seek to sever their supply lines.

Moscow cannot hope to rule the country, Zelenskyy said Monday, given Ukrainians’ enmity toward the Russian forces.

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The strike on 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 shelter. On Wednesday, a bomb hit a theater where more than 1,000 people were believed to be sheltering. Ukrainian officials have not given an update on the search of the theater since Friday, when they said at least 130 people had been rescued and another 1,300 were trapped by rubble.

Officials from the city and humanitarian groups claim that food, water, and electricity are running low in Mariupol. Fighting has also prevented aid convoys. Communication is disrupted. Over three weeks, the city was under heavy bombardment and suffered some of the most horrific horrors of war. City officials said at least 2,300 people have died, with some buried in mass graves.

Unexpectedly strong Ukrainian resistance has dashed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hopes for a quick victory after he ordered the Feb. 24 invasion of his neighbor. Recent days have seen Russian forces enter Mariupol. However, taking over the city may prove expensive.

Service members 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 Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, on the outskirts of the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, March 20, 2022.


“The 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 War said in a briefing. In a blunt assessment, the think tank concluded Russia failed in its initial campaign to take the capital of Kyiv and other major cities quickly.

U.S. Lloyd Austin, Defense Secretary of the United States said that Putin’s forces on the ground have been “essentially stopped” by Ukrainian resistance. “

“It’s had the effect of him moving his forces into a woodchipper,” Austin told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

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In Ukraine’s major cities, hundreds of men, women and children have been killed in Russian attacks. Six more victims were injured in Sunday’s shelling at the densely populated Podil area, just outside the capital Kyiv, said AP reporters on the spot. A shopping mall was destroyed by the attack, which left a crumbling ruin that smolders in the middle of tall-rise towers on Monday. Every window of the nearby high-rise was smashed by the blast and their frames were bent.

Firefighters fought their way through the wreckage. Vitali Klitschko, the Kyiv Mayor said that Russian bombing had hit several houses in Podil.

Russian troops have been shelling Kyiv for a fourth week now and are trying to surround the capital, which had nearly 3 million people before the war.

The U.N. has confirmed 902 civilian deaths in the war but concedes the actual toll is likely much higher. Nearly 3.4 million Ukrainians have fled Ukraine, according to the U.N. Although estimates vary on the number of Russian victims, conservative numbers are within the thousands. The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office says at least 115 children have been killed and 148 injured so far.

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

Few Russians have fled the country due to a crackdown on political dissent. Russia detained thousands of protestors, muzzled independent media outlets and blocked access to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

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