Ukraine rejects Russia’s demand to lay down arms in Mariupol

Local residents walk near damaged residential buildings in the besieged city of Mariupol
Local residents walk near apartment buildings damaged during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, March 18, 2022. REUTERS/Stringer

March 21, 2022

LONDON (Reuters) – Ukraine said it was out of the question to abandon the city of Mariupol after Russia on Sunday ordered Ukrainian forces to lay down arms in the besieged port city.

“There can be no question of capitulation, laying down of arms,” ​​the news portal Ukrainska Pravda quoted Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Iryna Vereshchuk as saying. “We have already informed the Russian side about this.”

Russia said a “terrible humanitarian catastrophe” was looming in Mariupol.

“Put down your arms,” ​​Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, director of the Russian National Center for Defense Management, said in a briefing distributed by the Defense Ministry.

“A terrible humanitarian catastrophe has developed,” Mizintsev said. “All those who lay down their arms are guaranteed safe passage from Mariupol.”

Mariupol has suffered some of the heaviest bombing since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Many of the 400,000 residents remain trapped in the city with little or no food, water and energy.

Mizintsev said humanitarian corridors for civilians would open east and west from Mariupol on Monday at 10 a.m. Moscow time (0700 GMT).

Ukraine has until 5 a.m. in Moscow to respond to the offer of humanitarian corridors and a laydown, he said.

Vereshchuk said Russia’s actions were “a deliberate manipulation”.

“Instead of spending time on eight pages of letters, just open the corridor,” she said.

Russia and Ukraine have traded blame for failure to open such corridors in recent weeks.

Mizintsev said, without providing evidence, that Ukrainian “bandits”, “neo-Nazis” and nationalists engaged in “mass terror” and went on a rampage in the city.

Ukraine says it is fighting for its existence, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Saturday the siege of Mariupol was “a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the “special military operation” in Ukraine was necessary to disarm and “denazify” its neighbor. Russia says it doesn’t target civilians.

Mizintsev said Russia is not using heavy weapons in Mariupol. He said Russia had evacuated 59,304 people from the city, but 130,000 civilians remained there as effective hostages. He said 330,686 people had been evacuated from Ukraine by Russia since the “operation” began.

The Mariupol City Council announced on its Telegram channel late Saturday that several thousand residents had been “deported” to Russia over the past week.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has killed thousands, displaced more than 3 million and raised fears of a major confrontation between Russia and the United States

The West has imposed far-reaching sanctions on Russia, which the Kremlin says amount to a declaration of economic war by the United States and its allies.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Lidia Kelly; Editing by Alexander Smith, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Michael Perry) Ukraine rejects Russia’s demand to lay down arms in Mariupol

Bobby Allyn

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