Why Mariupol doesnt think about surrendering to the Russians

The southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol has been under fire since the beginning of the Russian invasion. The city was one of the first attacked and is now completely surrounded. The situation is becoming increasingly pressing and yet Mariupol does not win.

Last night, Ukraine rejected Russia‘s demand to abandon the battle for Mariupol. The ultimatum went without Ukrainian soldiers laying down arms and showing white flags in exchange for a โ€œsafe retreatโ€, as the Russians promised.

โ€œOf course, Ukraine said ‘no‘ to the Russian demand,โ€ said Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk. โ€œThere can be no surrender, of the laying down of the weapons.โ€

Symbolic importance

Why is Ukraine holding so firmly to Mariupol? โ€œThe city is militarily of strategic importance,โ€ says out of service general Mart de Kruif. โ€œBesides Odessa, it is one of the two major ports of Ukraine. In addition, from Mariupol, Ukrainians attack the supply lines of the Russians, which have just been established between Crimea and Donbas. Those run past Mariupol.โ€

According to De Kruif, the symbolic meaning of the city is also great. โ€œIt has been one of the centers of the Cossacks. And during the war in 2014, Mariupol changed hands: it was first occupied by the Russian insurgents and then conquered again.โ€

The

fact that the Russians fought hard at the time and there has never actually come to rest since, is one of the reasons that the city will not give up now, thinks De Kruif. โ€œIf Mariupol falls, it’s a very big setback for Ukraine.โ€

Years of struggle with Russia

Mariupol has been involved in a battle with Russia since 2014. It started with the change of power as a result of massive pro-western demonstrations at Majdan Square in Kiev. Pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was deposed. The elections that were held on that were won by Petro Poroshenko. Ukraine cautiously hit the road to democracy.

In the same year, Russia annexed Crimea and began supporting separatists in the east of the country in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

The port of Mariupol is of great economic importance to Ukraine. After Russia‘s annexation of Crimea, the port came under strict Russian control. The passage of Ukrainian ships through the Kerch Strait, which connects the inland sea with the Black Sea, became increasingly difficult.

The skippers from Mariupol and Berdyansk, another Ukrainian port city on the Sea of Azov, had a hard time, and were afraid of sailing the Ukrainian flag on their ship through the Kerch Strait. Russia even shut down the sea temporarily four years ago by laying a freighter in the narrow Strait of Kerch after an incident involving a Ukrainian naval ship.

Apart from the conflict with the Russians in the port, Mariupol was also bombarded with missiles in 2015. Those came from the east, residents said. The Russian border is only 15 kilometers away. There were 30 deaths and more than 100 injured in those attacks.

Never give up

Despite the long-running hostilities around Mariupol, according to De Kruif, until two years ago, there was still confidence in a relatively peaceful coexistence with the Russians. โ€œYou have to remember that many Ukrainians never expected to be attacked by Russia,โ€ he says.

That sentiment has now completely disappeared. According to De Kruif, the residents of the city no longer trust the Russians. โ€œAnd not even when it comes to getting away from Mariupol safely.โ€

The city seems determined to continue to defend itself as it did in 2014. Among other things, the resistance of the infamous Azov battalion plays a role in this. But also Ukrainian soldiers who do not belong to this battalion and civilian militias defend the city.

At

the same time, the situation looks hopeless, says De Kruif. No one knows how far the Russians want to go. โ€œThat’s also the drama we‘re seeing right now,โ€ says the off-duty general. โ€œThe Russians are not going into the city. That takes them too much human power, so the destruction continues. Civilians want to get out and can’t get out and the military sit and defend themselves hard. This can still take days, if not weeks.โ€ De Kruif fears โ€œa very painful wound in our historyโ€.