Ukrainian soldiers holed up in a steel factory in the shattered city of Mariupol have ignored a Russian surrender-or-die ultimatum on Sunday.
The Russian Armed Forces, who claimed the city has been “completely cleared”, issued an ultimatum on Saturday, urging their opponents to lay down their arms by 6 am Moscow time (03:00 GMT) on Sunday and to evacuate before 1 pm.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said the remaining Ukrainian forces in Mariupol were still fighting.
“The city still has not fallen,” Shmyhal told ABC’s This Week program on Sunday. “We will fight absolutely to the end, to the win, in this war.”
He said Ukraine is prepared to end the conflict through diplomacy if possible, “but we do not have the intention to surrender”.
Russia estimated that 2,500 Ukrainian troops and about 400 foreign mercenaries were dug in at the Azovstal plant, which covers more than 11 square kilometers (four square miles) and is laced with tunnels.
You’re going to hear a lot about the #Azovstal steel plant in the coming hours…
The large complex of furnaces and rolling mills has become the ‘final stand’ for Ukrainian forces fighting in #Mariupol. Facility is also rumored to have countless underground tunnels. pic.twitter.com/JOiOqbKlFO
— Justin Peden 🇺🇦🦀 (@IntelCrab) April 17, 2022
Much of Mariupol has already been destroyed by Russian bombs
Much of the city has been destroyed by Russian shelling. Civilian structures targeted included a maternity hospital and a theater where up to 1,300 people were seeking refuge.
The military governor of Ukraine’s Donetsk region, where Mariupol is located, said last week up to 22,000 people may have died in the city.
On Saturday during a late-night address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the situation in Mariupol “inhuman” and “as severe as possible.” He and his administration had been trying every day to end the siege through both military and diplomatic channels, he said.
“Russia is deliberately trying to destroy everyone who is there in Mariupol,” he said in the video address.
In a separate article posted on the presidential website, Zelensky said he was open to talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but negotiations would be impossible if further Russian war crimes surface.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Sunday the situation in Mariupol “may be a red line” in negotiations with Russia.
“The situation in Mariupol is both dire militarily and heartbreaking,” Kuleba said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
“The city doesn’t exist anymore. The remaining of the Ukrainian army and a large group of civilians are basically encircled by the Russian forces. They continue their struggle, but it seems from the way the Russian army behaves in Mariupol, they decided to raze the city to the ground at any cost,” he added.