Ukrainian authorities have rejected Russian demands to surrender the port city of Mariupol, which has been under siege with limited access to food, water and power for three weeks now.
Russian Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev on Sunday urged Ukrainian forces to lay down their arms, promising safe passage out of the city for those that did. A deadline of 5am on Monday was given to respond to the offer, but officials in Kyiv immediately rejected the suggestion.
Under the plans, the Russian defense ministry said they would open safe from 10am Moscow time, initially to allow surrendering troops to leave the city and then to allow humanitarian aid to enter. No mention was made in the Russian proposal of any solid evacuation plans for the estimated 300,000 civilians still trapped in Mariupol, just that it would be possible for them to leave the city.
“All who lay down their arms are guaranteed safe passage out of Mariupol,” said Mizintsev. The ministry made no mention of what action it proposed to take if the offer was rejected, beyond warning that city leaders could face military tribunals for siding with what it described as “criminals”.
The Ukrainian leadership took little time in rejecting the offer, saying there was “no question” of surrender.
“There can be no question of any surrender, laying down of arms. We have already informed the Russian side about this,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk told the news outlet Ukrainska Pravda.
“I wrote: ‘Instead of wasting time on eight pages of letters, just open the corridor.'”
Vereshchuk also said that the Russians “continue to behave like terrorists” in a video posted to Telegram.
“The occupiers continue to behave like terrorists. They say they agree on the humanitarian corridor and in the morning, shell the place for evacuation,” she said.
Ukrainian authorities have made numerous allegations that Russian forces have attacked civilians fleeing through agreed humanitarian corridors, something which appears to be backed up by footage from the ground in Ukraine. Russia has denied the allegations, claiming that it’s Ukrainian troops firing on their own citizens.
Moscow’s call for surrender came shortly after accusations of another attack on civilians in Mariupol. Officials said the Russian military bombed an art school in Mariupol where an estimated 400 civilians were sheltering. The number of casualties is unclear at present as rescue attempts continue.
Speaking in a video address, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that about 400 civilians were taking shelter at the art school in the besieged Azov Sea port city when it was struck by a Russian bomb.
“They are under the rubble, and we don’t know how many of them have survived,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in his daily video address to the nation. “But we know that we will certainly shoot down the pilot who dropped that bomb, like about 100 other such mass murderers whom we already have downed.”