Lviv, Ukraine, Mar 21 (EFE).- Fighters resisting the Russian onslaught of the southeastern city of Mariupol are saving other Ukrainian cities, including the capital Kyiv and Odesa, the country’s defense minister said Monday.
“The heroic defenders of Mariupol have played a huge role in destroying the enemy’s plans and enhancing our defense,” Oleksii Reznikov said in a statement.
“By virtue of their dedication and superhuman courage, tens of thousands of lives throughout Ukraine were saved. Today Mariupol is saving Kyiv, Dnipro and Odesa,” the minister added.
According to Reznikov, Ukrainian troops have shot down 100 planes and 120 helicopters, in addition to destroying 500 tanks and 1,500 armored vehicles.
“The enemy no longer dreams of capturing Kyiv, is out of breath in the Chernihiv and Sumy regions and receiving painful blows near Kharkiv, in the Mykolaiv, Kherson and Luhansk regions,” he said.
Meanwhile, pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine said Monday that the takeover of the port city of Mariupol would take over a week.
In an appearance on Russian state television, Denis Pushilin, leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic, said he was not optimistic the matter would be resolved in two or three days, as several thousand Ukrainian battalions remain in Mariupol.
Russia called on Ukrainian forces Sunday to surrender and leave the besieged city.
Some 400,000 people have been trapped in Mariupol for over two weeks amid heavy shelling that has cut off electricity, heating and water supplies, according to local sources.
A Russian defense ministry spokesperson said Monday that Ukrainian soldiers that laid their weapons down would be allowed to leave the city safely.
The spokesperson added that from noon on Monday humanitarian convoys from both Kyiv and eastern regions that are not under Russian control, would be able to enter the city.
The Kremlin dismissed claims that Russian forces were not respecting humanitarian corridors as false. EFE