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Ukraine rejects Russian demand to lay down arms in Mariupol: Report

Biden to visit Poland on Europe trip

Rescue workers and others examine the damage after shelling of a shopping centre in Kyiv, on Monday. Photo: PTI

Rescue workers and others examine the damage after shelling of a shopping centre in Kyiv, on Monday. Photo: PTI

ReutersAssociated Press Mariupol | Lviv | Kyiv | Washington
Ukraine defied a Russian demand that its forces lay down arms before dawn on Monday in Mariupol, where hundreds of thousands of civilians have been trapped in a city under siege and already laid to waste by Russian bombardment.

Russia’s military had ordered Ukrainians inside the city in the country's southeast to surrender by 5 am, saying those who did so would be permitted to leave, while those who stayed would be turned over to tribunals run by Russian-backed separatists. “There can be no question of any surrender, laying down of arms” in Mariupol, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk responded.

Russia’s assault on Ukraine, now in its fourth week, has stalled along most fronts. Moscow has failed to seize a single major Ukrainian city much less capture the capital Kyiv or swiftly topple the government of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

But Russia has pounded residential areas, causing massive destruction. Nowhere has suffered worse than Mariupol, a port on the Sea of Azov, home to 400,000 people before the war. It has been under siege and constant bombardment, with no food, medicine, power or fresh water, since the invasion's early days.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov praised the city's “heroic defenders”, saying that by continuing to hold out they had helped thwart Russia's march on other big cities across the country.

A part of Mariupol now held by Russian forces, reached by Reuters on Sunday, was an eerie apocalyptic wasteland. Several bodies lay by the road, wrapped in blankets. Windows were blasted out of the surrounding apartment blocks and walls were charred black. People who had come out of their basements sat on benches amid the debris, bundled up in coats.

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden has added a stop in Poland to his trip this week to Europe for urgent talks with Nato and European allies, as Russian forces concentrate their fire upon cities and trapped civilians in a nearly month-old invasion of Ukraine. Biden will first travel to Brussels and then to Poland to meet with leaders there.

Russia’s foreign ministry, on the other hand said, it had summoned US Ambassador John Sullivan to tell him that remarks by Biden about Russian President Vladimir Putin had pushed bilateral ties to the brink of collapse.

President Biden said last week that Putin was a "war criminal" for sending tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine.

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First Published: Mar 21 2022 | 11:38 PM IST

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