Ukraine’s political and military leaders are saying they’re doing everything possible to help the soldiers in the besieged Azov Sea port city of Mariupol in the Donetsk region.
Invading Russian forces started an assault on the region’s second largest city four days after Kremlin despot Vladimir Putin ordered a renewed invasion of the neighboring country on Feb. 24.
Ukraine’s forces inside the city, consisting mostly of National Guard and Marine units, this week have released videos saying they are stranded, running low on ammunition and essentials like access to potable water. Some said they’ve had no communication with their superiors for two weeks.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted that there are about 1,500 combined city defenders facing a Russian onslaught “of more than 10 times as many” invaders.
The city’s remaining defenders “are under constant bombardment” yet are “forcing the Russians to pay an exorbitant price” for their attempt to seize the city, he said.
Mariupol, which had a pre-war population of nearly 500,000 before the renewed invasion, is symbolic for both Kyiv and Moscow.
Ukrainian forces liberated the city in 2014 when Russia first invaded the country and forcibly seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. The port’s access to the Azov Sea allows for crucial maritime shipping.
For Putin, taking over the city would bolster his objective of taking over the Donbas consisting of the two easternmost regions of Luhansk and Donetsk. It would also establish a secure land bridge between mainland Russia and occupied Crimea.
“Our soldiers remain trapped in the city and have problems with supplies. The country’s military and political leadership is aware of the problem, monitors the situation in real-time and has more information than what is known on social media networks,” Podolyak added.
So far, more than 10,000 civilians have been killed in Mariupol, city manager Vadym Boychenko told the AP news agency. About 90 percent of the city’s residential areas are damaged. He said about 120,000 residents remain in Mariupol.
After videos surfaced from servicemen inside the city speaking about their desperate situation, military commander-in-chief Valeriy Zaluchnyi responded with a brief statement on April 11.
“We are doing everything possible and impossible to win and to save the lives of soldiers and civilians (in Mariupol),” Zaluzhnyi said. “Military operations shouldn’t be a topic for a public discussion.”
Presidential adviser Podolyak said plans to provide assistance to the besieged soldiers are underway but cannot be made public.
“But we cannot communicate our plans and actions publicly without informing the enemy. Please treat this with understanding,” he tweeted.
In his latest daily midnight address, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine could breakthrough Russia’s defenses near Mariupol if Kyiv had more heavy weapons, such as tanks and more artillery.
“Unfortunately, we are not getting as much as we need to end this war sooner,” Zelensky said overnight on April 12. “To completely destroy the enemy on our land. And to fulfill those tasks that are obvious to each of our people. In particular, to unblock Mariupol.”
The situation is so dire that it prompted a British member of the Ukrainian Marines in Mariupol to tell his friends back home that he has “no choice but to surrender to Russian troops.”
Twenty-eight year-old Aiden Aslin added that the unit with whom he is fighting is “running out of food and ammunition,” according to a Twitter post his contact published on the social media site.
“It’s been a pleasure everyone, I hope this war ends soon,” he is quoted as saying.
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