Ukrainian City of Mariupol Under Siege
The situation in Ukraine is dire. Russia has recently surrounded Mariupol, Ukraine’s southern port city. They have blocked off fuel and water supplies and prevented aid convoys from entering. People like Yulia Beley have been hiding in their basements to save themselves from the shelling. The mother of three children has also been feeding her family and rescuing stranded civilians. Her six-year-old daughter dreams about poppy seed sweet rolls.
In the past 24 hours, Russian forces continued to carry out small-scale attacks in eastern Ukraine, but made little progress. The Russian military continues to deploy its reserve forces in eastern Ukraine but shows no sign of stopping or scaling back its offensive operations. The Russian military seems to be following the same strategy as Kyiv – funneling small groups of troops into failed attacks on Ukrainian defensive positions.
The Russians have continued to advance in Mariupol, reportedly bisecting the city with their advances. Nevertheless, pockets of Ukrainian defenders have remained in the city and continue to hold on. In several areas, they have likely taken significant casualties in the fierce urban fighting. In addition, Russian troops have reinforced their offensive in the Izyum-Slovyansk axis.
Despite the Russian forces’ continued push in Mariupol, the situation remains dire in Ukraine. While the Russian military has been making efforts to rebuild its combat force, it has failed to make significant progress against the Ukrainian forces. In fact, the situation there could very well turn out to be worse. The Russians have failed to take the city of Donetsk and Luhansk, both major population centers in the country.
If the Russians regained Mariupol, it would be a huge victory for Kremlin propaganda, which tries to paint Ukraine as Nazi-ruled by the Russians. The Azov battalion, whose members are drawn from far-right and neo-Nazi groups, has been based in Mariupol. However, they are a tiny fraction of the national guard of Ukraine. Russian propaganda has been busy claiming that the Azov fighters are the culprits of the destruction in Mariupol.
The Russian occupation has left tens of thousands of civilians stranded in the southern port city of Mariupol. Local officials say that the civilian death toll is already over 5,000. The city’s satellite imagery, which is provided by Maxar Technologies, shows the devastating damage caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. So far, many buildings have been destroyed and civilians are left with no way out.
The Russian army has continued to grind down the Ukrainian defenses in Mariupol, but the situation there is unclear. While the Ukrainian defenders are reporting deteriorating conditions, ISW cannot confirm any major territorial changes. As a result, the Russians are deploying more heavy weapons and artillery in the area. As of March 30, the Russians continued unsuccessful daily attacks against the town of Rubizhne and heavy shelling along the line of contact in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian forces managed to hold off these attacks, blocking the Russian army from surrounding the city from the northwest.