LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials defiantly rejected a Russian demand that its forces in the besieged strategic port city of Mariupol on Monday lay down their arms and hoist white flags in exchange for a safe exit.
Russia has bombed the encircled southern city on the Sea of Azov, hitting an art school housing about 400 people, just hours before it offered to open two corridors out of the city in exchange for surrendering its forces, according to Ukrainian officials Defender.
The battle for Mariupol remains intense, even as Russia’s offensive in other areas has failed so far that Western governments and analysts are now viewing the broader conflict as a war of attrition.
Ukrainian officials rejected the Russian proposal for safe passage from Mariupol even before Moscow’s 5 p.m. deadline for a response came and went.
“There can be no question of capitulation, laying down of arms,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk told the Ukrainian Pravda news agency. “We have already informed the Russian side about this.”
The mayor of Mariupol, Piotr Andryushchenko, also rejected the offer shortly after it was made. He said in a Facebook post he didn’t have to wait until the morning appointment to reply and berated the Russians, according to Interfax Ukraine news agency.
Russian Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev had offered two corridors – one east towards Russia and the other west towards other parts of Ukraine. He did not say what action Russia intends to take if the offer is rejected.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said authorities in Mariupol could face a military tribunal if they side with what it calls “bandits,” Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti reported.
Previous attempts to allow residents to evacuate Mariupol and other Ukrainian cities have failed or met with only partial success, with bombing continuing as civilians attempted to flee.
Weeping evacuees from the devastated city have described how “fighting took place in every street”.
Before the latest bid, a Russian airstrike hit the school where about 400 civilians were sheltering and it was not clear how many casualties there were, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address early Monday.
“They lie under the rubble and we don’t know how many of them survived,” he said.
The fall of Mariupol would allow Russian forces in southern and eastern Ukraine to combine. But Western military analysts say that even if the surrounded city is taken, the troops battling for control block by block there may be too exhausted to ensure a Russian breakthrough on other fronts.
Ukrainians “didn’t greet Russian soldiers with bouquets of flowers,” Zelenskyi told CNN, but with “guns in hand.”
Three weeks after the invasion, both sides now appear to be trying to wear the other down, experts say, with stalled Russian forces firing long-range missiles at cities and military bases, while Ukrainian forces conduct hit-and-run attacks and try to cut their supply lines .
“The block-by-block fighting in Mariupol itself is costing the Russian military time, initiative and fighting power,” the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said in a briefing.
In a blunt assessment, the think tank concluded that Russia had failed in its first campaign to quickly seize the capital, Kyiv and other major cities, and its stalled invasion.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the Ukrainian resistance meant that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “forces on the ground” had essentially come to a standstill.
“It had the effect of moving his troops into a wood chipper,” Austin told CBS on Sunday.
The art school strike 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 sheltering.
There was no immediate information about the victims of the school attack, which The Associated Press has not been able to independently verify. Ukrainian officials have not given an update on the search of the theater since Friday, when they said at least 130 people were rescued and another 1,300 were trapped by debris.
City officials and aid groups say Mariupol is running out of food, water and electricity and the fighting has kept humanitarian convoys away. The communication is interrupted.
The city has been bombed for over three weeks and has endured some of the worst horrors of the war. City officials said at least 2,300 people have died, some buried in mass graves.
Some who managed to escape Mariupol tearfully hugged relatives as they arrived by train in Lviv, some 1,100 kilometers (680 miles) west, on Sunday.
“Fighting took place on every street. Every house became a target,” said Olga Nikitina, who was hugged by her brother as she got off the train. “Shots were fired from the windows. The apartment was below freezing.”
Hundreds of men, women and children have been killed in Russian attacks in Ukraine’s major cities.
In Kyiv, rescue services reported four people killed by shelling near the center of the capital on Sunday. Loud explosions were heard as a mall and cars caught fire in a parking lot, they said.
In Kyiv, rescue services reported four people killed by shelling near the city center on Sunday. Loud explosions were heard as a mall and cars caught fire in a parking lot, they said.
Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the Russian shelling also hit several houses in the densely populated Podil district.
For a fourth week, Russian troops have been shelling Kyiv, trying to encircle the capital, which had a population of almost 3 million before the war.
The United Nations has confirmed 902 civilian deaths in the war but concedes the real number is likely much higher. According to this, almost 3.4 million people have fled Ukraine. Estimates of Russian deaths vary, but even conservative numbers are in the low thousands.
Some Russians have also fled their country amid widespread crackdowns on dissidents. Russia has arrested thousands of anti-war protesters, muzzled independent media and blocked access to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
https://nypost.com/2022/03/21/ukraine-rejects-russian-offer-of-passage-out-of-mariupol/ Ukraine rejects Russia’s offer to leave Mariupol