The last 2,000 Ukrainian defenders of Mariupol, along with about 1,000 civilians, reside in the tunnels under the factory complex.
According to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the site of the plant is under heavy bombardment. In addition, Russian forces were said to have blocked the exits from the site. Both soldiers and civilians are in critical condition in the tunnel system below the factory. They could not get any medicine or food for weeks.
Attempts to evacuate Ukrainian civilians and military personnel from the site have so far been unsuccessful. Russia announced on Monday that it would open a humanitarian corridor for civilians, but Ukraine said there was no agreement. The evacuation will not be possible as long as Russia comes under fire at the steel plant. Ukraine says Russia deliberately bombs such humanitarian corridors.
Yesterday, in his talks with Turkish President Erdogan, Putin denied the continuation of fighting in Mariupol. According to him, the Ukrainian government’s mistake is that civilians still live in the steel plant and can safely leave the site.
Yesterday, Ukraine requested assistance from the United Nations and the Red Cross in the evacuations. After UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres met with Vladimir Putin, the UN stated that Putin agreed “in principle” to this. It remains unclear when this joint evacuation should take place or where the civilians will be relocated.
Many Ukrainian citizens were evacuated to Russia and not to safer areas of Ukraine itself. The United Nations reports that more than 600,000 Ukrainian refugees are now in Russia, while Ukraine claims that many of these people were forcibly brought to Russia.
Mariupol has been completely cordoned off since March 17th. Only the Azovstal steel plant remains in the hands of the Ukrainians. If the city completely fell into the hands of the Russians, it would be an important victory for Russia. In this case, it controls the southeastern coast of Ukraine.
In addition, the port of Mariupol is an important strategic target that can be used to supply Russian forces. The forces that are still active in Mariupol will be deployed again on the other front lines.
You can find out why Mariupol is so important to Russians in this video:
Zombie specialist. Friendly twitter guru. Internet buff. Organizer. Coffee trailblazer. Lifelong problem solver. Certified travel enthusiast. Alcohol geek.