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Ukraine Rejects Russian Ultimatum to Surrender Mariupol


In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks from Kyiv, Ukraine, early Sunday, March 20, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

WASHINGTON — Ukraine rejected a Russian ultimatum to surrender the besieged city of Mariupol Monday, as Russian forces carried out more shelling on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk rejected the Russian demand and said Russia should open humanitarian corridors for people to be able to leave Mariupol.

“There can be no talk of any surrender, laying down of arms. We have already informed the Russian side about this,” Vereshchuk told the news outlet Ukrainian Pravda.

According to Russian state news agency RIA, Russia’s defense ministry gave Ukraine’s military a pre-dawn deadline Monday and referred to refusing to surrender as siding with “bandits.”

Shelling overnight hit a shopping center in Kyiv, killing at least four people.

Britain’s Defense Ministry reported heavy fighting north of Kyiv Monday, but said Russian advances toward the capital have stalled with the bulk of Russian forces still more than 25 kilometers from the center of the city.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an interview broadcast Sunday that failure to reach a negotiated agreement with Russia “would mean that this is a third World War.”

Zelenskyy has called for comprehensive peace talks with Moscow that restore territorial integrity and provide justice for Ukraine. Russia’s lead negotiator has said in recent days the sides have moved closer to agreement on the issue of Ukraine dropping its bid to join NATO and adopting neutral status.

Zelenskyy told CNN that Russian forces entered Ukraine “to exterminate us, to kill us,” but he vowed that Ukraine would not concede its sovereignty or its integrity.

“Russians have killed our children. You cannot reverse the situation anymore. You cannot demand from Ukraine to recognize some territories as independent republics. These compromises are simply wrong,” said Zelenskyy.

The leaders of the United States, France, Germany, Italy and Britain are scheduled to participate in a call Monday to discuss what the White House called “their coordinated responses to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine.”

The meeting comes days ahead of a NATO summit, a G-7 meeting, and a European Council summit all focused on the situation in Ukraine.

Mariupol

A Mariupol art school where about 400 people had found shelter was bombed by Russian forces early Sunday.

Mariupol’s city council said that the building was destroyed in the attack. Information about survivors was not immediately available.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that he thinks Russian forces are resorting to these brutal attacks on civilian because its military “campaign is stalled.”

“This is really disgusting,” Austin said.

Just a few days earlier a Russian airstrike targeted a theater where hundreds of people had been sheltering. The word “CHILDREN” had been written in Russian in big letters visible from the sky on the ground just outside the theater, to alert Russian forces of who was inside.

More than 100 have been rescued from the theater, and it is still unclear how many casualties the attack caused.

The city continues to resist Russian military forces, who are having to engage in attrition tactics and urban fighting that requires going from building to building.

“Mariupol has not yet fallen. It is out of food, fuel, water, everything except for heart. They are still fighting very hard,” retired Gen. David Petraeus told CNN Sunday.

Thousands of residents of Mariupol have been forcibly taken from their homes to Russian territory, according to a Mariupol city council statement on its Telegram channel.

“The occupiers illegally took people from the Livoberezhny district and from the shelter in the sports club building, where more than a thousand people (mostly women and children) were hiding from the constant bombing,” the statement said.

“What the occupiers are doing today is familiar to the older generation, who saw the horrific events of World War II, when the Nazis forcibly captured people,” Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said.

Russia still stalled

Austin said that Russian forces across the country have been ineffective as Ukrainian forces continue to weaken Russian troops with weapons provided by the U.S. and NATO allies.

“It’s had the effect of him (Putin) moving his forces into a woodchipper,” Austin told CBS.

U.S. officials have estimated that Ukrainians have killed more than 3,000 Russian troops since the invasion began.

At least five of those have been senior Russian officers, according to the Ukrainian government.

Meanwhile, neighboring Slovakia’s defense minister said Sunday that Patriot air defense systems started arriving in Slovakia from NATO partner countries.

The systems will be operated by German and Dutch troops to help reinforce the defense of NATO’s eastern flank, in a move prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The United Nations human rights office (OHCHR) reports that at least 902 civilians have been killed and upward of 1,459 have been wounded as of Saturday, while warning the actual count likely is higher. Most of the deaths were from explosions caused by shelling from heavy artillery and multiple missiles and airstrikes, OHCHR said. The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office said 112 of those killed were children.

Millions of people have fled their homes since the Russian invasion. “The war in Ukraine is so devastating that 10 million have fled — either displaced inside the country, or as refugees abroad,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grande tweeted Sunday.

U.N. correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.

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