Putin claims victory in Mariupol

Published April 22, 2022
This handout photograph taken and released by the Russian Presidential Press Office, on April 21, 2022 shows Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) speaking with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow. — AFP
This handout photograph taken and released by the Russian Presidential Press Office, on April 21, 2022 shows Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) speaking with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow. — AFP

KYIV: Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed victory in the biggest battle of the Ukraine war on Thursday, declaring the port of Mariupol “liberated” after nearly two months of siege, despite hundreds of defenders still holding out inside a giant steel works.

In a televised meeting with his defence minister inside the Kremlin, Putin said there was no need for a final confrontation with the last defenders who were boxed in after surviving nearly two months of Russia’s siege.

“I consider the proposed storming of the industrial zone unnecessary,” he told Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in a televised meeting at the Kremlin. “I order you to cancel it.”

“There’s no need to climb into these catacombs and crawl underground through these industrial facilities,” he said. “Block off this industrial area so that not even a fly can get through.”

Shoigu estimated 2,000 Ukrainian fighters remained inside the plant. Putin called on them to lay down their weapons and surrender, saying Russia would treat them with respect.

Asked to comment on Russia’s decision to blockade the steel works rather than storm it, Ukraine’s defence ministry spokeswoman said the move testified to Putin’s “schizophrenic tendencies” and gave no further response.

Putin’s declaration of victory lets him claim his first big prize since his forces were driven out of northern Ukraine last month after failing to capture the capital, Kyiv.

Civilian suffering

Mariupol, once home to 400,000 people, has been the scene of by far the worst fighting of the war and its worst humanitarian catastrophe, with hundreds of thousands of civilians cut off for nearly two months under Russian siege and bombardment.

Journalists who reached it during the siege found streets littered with corpses, nearly all buildings destroyed, and residents huddled freezing in cellars, venturing out to cook scraps on makeshift stoves or to bury bodies in gardens.

Two incidents in particular became symbolic of what Kyiv and the West call Russian war crimes _ the bombing of a maternity hospital and, a week later, of a theatre with hundreds of civilians in the basement. Moscow denies targeting civilians, and, without evidence, says those incidents were faked.

Ukraine estimates tens of thousands of civilians have died in Mariupol. It says some have been buried in mass graves, others removed from the streets by Russian forces using mobile cremation trucks to incinerate bodies.

The intensified Russian campaign to seize large swathes of eastern Ukraine has further diminished the prospects of stop-start peace talks producing any rapid agreement to end the war.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Moscow was still waiting for Kyiv’s response to a proposal it had handed over.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Wednesday that he had not seen or heard about the document that the Kremlin said it had sent.

No surrender

Shoigu, the Russian defence minister, told President Putin that Russia had killed more than 4,000 Ukrainian troops in its campaign to take Mariupol and that 1,478 had given themselves up. Two of those who surrendered are British.

Azovstal is one of the biggest metallurgical facilities in Europe, covering 11 square kilometres, with huge buildings, underground bunkers and tunnels.

Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2022

Opinion

Editorial

Miftah’s misery
Updated 06 Jul, 2022

Miftah’s misery

It cannot be easy to be finance minister in times like these, with friend and foe alike gunning for you over difficult decisions.
Phone tapping
06 Jul, 2022

Phone tapping

IT is the season of audio leaks. No sooner does one ‘incriminating’ clip lose its shock value than another...
Transgender job quota
06 Jul, 2022

Transgender job quota

IN a society where transgender persons often face violence and abuse, the Sindh Assembly’s decision to reserve a...
Warming ties
05 Jul, 2022

Warming ties

BILATERAL ties with the US are clearly on the mend after an extensive rough patch under the PTI government. While ...
LNG emergency
Updated 05 Jul, 2022

LNG emergency

The problem is that Pakistan does not have sufficient cash at the moment to buy even a single LNG cargo at present prices.
The invisible half
05 Jul, 2022

The invisible half

WHAT better illustrates the Afghan Taliban’s misogynistic and mediaeval worldview than the fact that not a single...