Why Ukraine rejected Russian demand of surrendering besieged Mariupol?
Ukraine says ‘there can be no question of laying down arms after Russia offers safe passage in exchange for surrender.
Russia has urged Ukrainian forces in the port city of Mariupol to lay down their arms and surrender in exchange for safe passage out of town, but officials in Kyiv immediately rejected the offer as out of the question.
Russian Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev said on Sunday that Moscow would allow two corridors out of the coastal city, heading east towards Russia and west to other parts of Ukraine.
He gave Mariupol until 5am on Monday (02:00 GMT) to respond to the offer, saying a “terrible humanitarian catastrophe has developed” in the besieged city, where fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces have trapped residents without food, water or power.
“All who lay down their arms are guaranteed safe passage out of Mariupol,” he said, without saying what action Russia would take if the offer was rejected.
The Russian Ministry of Defence, addressing Mariupol authorities on messaging app Telegram, said the officials “now have the right to make a historic choice” and warned they could face a military tribunal if they sided with what it described as “criminals”.
In this video grab from handout footage taken and released by the National Police of Ukraine on March 9, 2022, people are helped out of a damaged building of a children’s hospital following a Russian air raid in Mariupol, Ukraine [National Police of Ukraine / AFP]
But Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk rejected the demand.
“There can be no question of any surrender, laying down of arms. We have already informed the Russian side about this,” she told the news outlet Ukrainska Pravda.
“I wrote: ‘Instead of wasting time on eight pages of letters, just open the corridor.’”
In a video on Telegram, Vereshchuk added that the Russians “continue to behave like terrorists”.
“They say they agree on the humanitarian corridor and in the morning, shell the place for evacuation,” she said.
‘Every house became a target’
Mariupol, a city of 400,000 people, has suffered some of the heaviest bombardments since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. City officials say at least 2,300 people have died, some buried in mass graves.
Mariupol Mayor Piotr Andryushchenko also rejected the Russian demand for surrender, saying in a Facebook post he did not need to wait until morning to respond and cursing at the Russians, according to the news agency Interfax Ukraine.
Moscow’s call for surrender came hours after Ukrainian authorities said the Russian military bombed an art school in Mariupol that was sheltering hundreds of people. There was no immediate word on casualties in the school attack.
Speaking in a video address, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that about 400 civilians were taking shelter at the art school in the besieged Azov Sea port city when it was struck by a Russian bomb.
“They are under the rubble, and we don’t know how many of them have survived,” he 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.”
The raid 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.