Moscow/Kyiv, Apr 17 (EFE).- Ukraine on Sunday rejected Russia’s demand that its troops in the besieged coastal city of Mariupol surrender, although the Russians had promised to spare their lives if they laid down their weapons.
“The city has not fallen. There (are) still our military forces, our soldiers, so they will fight until the end,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Sunday in an exclusive interview with ABC news.
Russian Defense Minister Igor Konashenkov, meanwhile, said that the Kyiv government has prohibited its troops surrounded in the Azvovstal metallurgical plant in Mariupol from surrendering, claiming that the Ukrainian government had threatened them with execution if they did so.
He added that, according to statements by Ukrainian troops who have been taken prisoner, the approximately 2,500 soldiers inside the steelworks are accompanied by “up to 400 foreign mercenaries,” with “the majority of them” being “citizens of European countries and also of Canada,” warning that if they do not surrender to Russian forces they will be “annihilated.”
The Ukrainian troops, however, are putting up stubborn resistance against surrounding troops of Russia and those from the self-proclaimed, and Russian-backed, people’s republic of Donetsk, which has been recognized by Moscow as an independent state.
The strategic city of Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov, is one of the main objectives of the Russian forces in their effort to achieve total control over the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine and form a land corridor from Russia to the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014.
According to Mariupol city authorities, up to 20,000 civilians have died since the start of Russia’s so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine and some 120,000 residents remain in the city amid extremely precarious conditions.
The Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said that the Russians have deployed up to 13 mobile crematoria in Mariupol to destroy the bodies of murdered civilians, Ukrinform added.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned that any massacre of Ukrainian troops in Mariupol could put an end to any peace talks with Russia, with the moment approaching when “nobody wants to talk” any longer.
Meanwhile, the Russian military continued to attack Ukrainian facilities with missiles and artillery fire, including an ammunition factory in the Kyiv region.
Authorities in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharhiv near the Russian border, reported Sunday that at least five people were killed and 13 wounded in a Russian rocket attack.
Zelenskyy on Sunday urged his US counterpart, Joe Biden, to visit Ukraine and see firsthand what the Russian invasion of the neighboring country has wrought.
“Of course it’s his decision and it depends on the security (situation), but I think that the leader of the United States should come here to observe,” Zelenskyy said in an interview with CNN.
After Russian troops withdrew from the area around Kyiv, Biden said that he was studying the possibility of sending a top administration official to Ukraine and some media outlets speculated that it might be Secretary of State Antony Blinken or Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
During the interview, Zelenskyy said that he wanted Biden to visit his country, adding that he was convinced that the US leader “will do so.”
On April 8, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met with Zelenskyy in Kyiv and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson did so the following day.
In late March, Biden visited Poland, which borders on Ukraine to the north, but at the time he ruled out visiting Ukraine itself.
Zelenskyy thanked the US for the military aid Washington has delivered so far, including the additional $800 million military aid package announced last week, but he asked for more support saying that the amount en route “will never be enough. We’re in a large-scale war and we need more than we have”
“Unfortunately, we don’t have a technical advantage over our enemy, we’re not on the same level, but our people are stronger,” the Ukrainian leader said.
Regarding the invasion, Zelenskyy said that he has “substantial evidence” that the Russian troops are engaging in genocide, giving the example of Bucha, a city near Kyiv where hundreds of civilian bodies were found after the Russians withdrew, many of them quite obviously summarily executed.