Ukrainian soldiers entrenched in the rubble of the port of Mariupol resisted an ultimatum from Russia on Sunday asking them to lay down their arms, Moscow claiming to have virtual control of the place, which would constitute its biggest war prize in nearly two months of conflict. Zelensky invited Macron to come “to note the existence of a genocide”.
“The city still hasn’t fallen”Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told the American television channel ABC, adding that the Ukrainian soldiers still on the spot continued the fight and still controlled certain parts of the agglomeration.
Russia claimed control of urban parts of the city on Saturday, with some Ukrainian fighters still present in the Azovstal steelworks. The Russian Ministry of Defense asked them to lay down their arms at 6 a.m. Moscow time (5 a.m. in Paris) if they wanted to save their lives.
“In view of the catastrophic situation in the Azovstal steel plant, as well as for purely humanitarian reasons, the Russian armed forces call on the fighters of the nationalist battalions and foreign mercenaries to end hostilities and lay down their armsthe ministry wrote in a statement. All who lay down their arms are guaranteed that their lives will be spared.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia on Saturday “to deliberately try to destroy everyone” in Mariupol, adding that the death of its soldiers risked ending peace efforts.
A “cruel and senseless” war, according to the Pope
In his Easter blessing “Urbi et Orbi”, Pope Francis lamented a “War Easter”pleaded for an end to the bloodshed and implicitly criticized Russia. “Peace come to war-torn Ukraine, so hard-hit by the violence and destruction of the cruel and senseless war into which it has been dragged”did he declare.
The fall of Mariupol, besieged since the first days of the war launched on February 24, would allow Russia to consolidate a land route linking the Crimean peninsula which it annexed in 2014 and the regions in the hands of pro-Russian separatists in the Donbass, in eastern Ukraine.
Elsewhere in Ukraine, several more sporadic Russian strikes were reported on Sunday.
Artillery fire around Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, left five dead and 20 injured in the city center, regional governor Oleg Sinegubov said. The Ukrainian armed forces successfully carried out counterattacks in the Kharkiv region, retaking two villages entirely and another partially.
A bombing also reportedly killed two people in the eastern town of Zolote.
A missile strike in the early hours of Sunday also damaged an ammunition factory in the town of Brovary, near kyiv.
Faced with these horrors, on Sunday afternoon, President Zelensky claimed to have invited Emmanuel Macron to go to Ukraine to see with his own eyes that the Russian forces are committing a “genocide”a term that its French counterpart has so far refused to use.