Hundreds of Ukrainian troops surrender in key port of Mariupol: Russia

More than a thousand soldiers of Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade, including 162 officers, have surrendered in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Moscow’s main target in the eastern Donbass region that it has not yet brought under its control, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.

If the Russians take the Azovstal industrial district, where the Marines have holed up, they would have full control of Mariupol, the axis between Russian-held areas to the west and east that provides a land corridor for troops and supplies.

It would be the first major city to fall to Russian forces since they invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Ukraine’s general staff said Russian forces were proceeding with attacks on Azovstal and the port. Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said he had no information about any surrender. Reuters journalists accompanying the Russian-backed separatists saw flames pouring out of the Azovstal district on Tuesday.

“I have no information,” Motuzyanyk said in a message responding to a request for comment.

Thousands of people are believed to have been killed during a nearly seven-week siege of Mariupol and Russia has been massing thousands of troops in the area for a new assault, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

Ukraine says tens of thousands of civilians have been trapped inside the city with no way to bring food or water, and accuses Russia of blocking aid convoys.

The Russian Defense Ministry said 1,026 soldiers from Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade had surrendered.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, an ardent supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, urged Ukrainians remaining in hiding in Azovstal to surrender. “Inside Azovstal at the moment there are about 200 wounded who cannot receive medical assistance,” Kadyrov said in a Telegram post. “For them and everyone else it would be better to end this futile resistance and go home to their families.”

Russian television showed footage of what it said were marines surrendering Tuesday at the Illich Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol, many of them wounded. He showed what he said were Ukrainian soldiers marching down a road with their hands in the air. One of the soldiers was shown holding a Ukrainian passport.

accusation of genocide

Moscow’s incursion into Ukraine, the biggest attack on a European state since 1945, has sent more than 4.6 million people fleeing abroad, killed or injured thousands and left Russia increasingly isolated in the world stage.

Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office said 191 children had been killed and 349 injured since the beginning of the invasion.

The Kremlin says it has launched a “special military operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” Ukraine. kyiv and its Western allies reject it as a false pretext for an unprovoked attack.

US President Joe Biden first said Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine amounted to genocide, while Putin said Russia would “rhythmically and calmly” continue its operation and achieve its goals. Russia has denied targeting civilians and has said the Ukrainian and Western war crimes charges are fabricated.

Many towns Russia withdrew from in northern Ukraine were littered with the bodies of civilians killed in what kyiv says was a campaign of murder, torture and rape.

Operation ‘calm’

The Interfax Ukraine news agency on Wednesday quoted the kyiv district police chief as saying that 720 bodies had been found in the region around the capital, with more than 200 people missing.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces Headquarters said Russian forces were maintaining attacks on civilian infrastructure in the Kharkiv region in northeastern Ukraine and the Zaporizhzhia region in central Ukraine.

At least seven people have been killed and 22 injured in Kharkiv in the past 24 hours, Governor Oleh Synegubov said. A 2-year-old boy was among those killed in the 53 artillery or rocket attacks Russian forces had carried out in the region, he said in an online post.

Putin used his first public comments Tuesday on the conflict in more than a week to say Russia will continue “rhythmically and calmly” with its operation, expressing confidence its goals will be achieved.

Zelenskyy taunted Putin in a morning speech: “How could a plan come about that foresees the death of tens of thousands of his own soldiers in little more than a month of war?”

The assault on the industrial heartland of Donbass sets the stage for a protracted battle that is sure to inflict heavy losses on both sides and ultimately define the course of the war, analysts said.

Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said there was a high risk Russia would use chemical weapons, echoing Zelenskyy’s earlier warnings. The production, use and stockpiling of chemical weapons are prohibited under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention. Russia has denied using chemical weapons, saying it had destroyed its last chemical stockpiles in 2017.

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