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Ukraine rejects Russian demand for Mariupol capitulation

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Ukrainian officials defiantly rejected a Russian demand that its forces in Mariupol lay down their arms and hoist white flags on Monday in exchange for safe passage from the besieged strategic port city.

Even as Russia intensified its attempt Beat Mariupol to surrender, its offensive in other parts of Ukraine has stalled. Western governments and analysts say the broader conflict is turning into a war of attrition, with Russia continuing to bomb cities.

In the capital Kyiv, a shopping mall in the densely populated Podil district near the city center was a smoldering, leveled ruin after it was hit by shelling late Sunday, killing eight, emergency services said. The force of the explosion shattered every window in a neighboring high-rise building. Artillery boomed in the distance as firefighters made their way through the destruction.

Ukrainian authorities also said Russia shelled a chemical plant in northeastern Ukraine, spewing toxic ammonia into the air and hitting a military training ground in the west with cruise missiles.

The encircled southern city of Mariupol on the Sea of ​​​​Azov saw some of the worst horrors of war, more than three weeks under Russian siege in a brutal attack that Ukrainian and Western officials have described as a war crime.

Strikes hit an art school housing around 400 people just hours before Russia offered to open corridors out of the city in exchange for the surrender of its defenders, Ukrainian officials said.

“They are under the rubble and we don’t know how many of them survived,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. In a video speech, he promised Ukraine would “shoot down the pilot who dropped that bomb.”

Russian Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev had offered two corridors — one eastbound to Russia and the other westward to other parts of Ukraine — in exchange for Mariupol’s surrender. He did not say what Russia plans to do if the offer is rejected.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said authorities in Mariupol could face a military tribunal if they side with what it calls “bandits,” Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Ukrainian officials rejected the proposal even before Russia’s 5 a.m. Moscow time (0200 GMT) deadline for a response came and went.

“There can be no question of capitulation, laying down of arms,” ​​Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk told the Ukrainian Pravda news agency. “We have already informed the Russian side about this.”

Mariupol Mayor Piotr Andryushchenko was also quick to decline the offer, saying in a Facebook post he didn’t need to wait until the morning appointment to reply and berating the Russians, according to Interfax Ukraine news agency.

The art school strike was the second time in less than a week that officials reported an attack on a public building where Mariupol residents had taken shelter. On Wednesday, a bomb hit a theater where more than 1,000 people were sheltering. At least 130 people were reported rescued on Friday, but there has been no update since.

Mariupol officials said at least 2,300 people died in the siege, with some buried in mass graves.

City officials and aid groups say the Russian bombardment cut off Mariupol’s electricity, water and food supplies and disrupted communications with the outside world, leaving remaining residents in a chaotic struggle for survival.

“What is happening in Mariupol is a massive war crime,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Monday.

Russia’s invasion has shaken the international security order and almost 3.4 million people displaced from Ukraine, according to the United Nations. The United Nations has confirmed 902 civilian deaths in the war but concedes the real number is likely much higher. Estimates of Russian deaths vary, but also conservative numbers are in the low thousands.

Several attempts to evacuate residents from Mariupol and other Ukrainian cities have failed or only partially succeeded, and the bombing continues as civilians try to flee.

Some who managed to escape Mariupol tearfully hugged relatives as they arrived by train in Lviv in western Ukraine on Sunday.

“There were fights across every street. Every house became a target,” said Olga Nikitina, who was hugged by her brother as she got off the train. “Shots were fired from the windows. The apartment was below freezing.”

Mariupol is a key Russian target as its fall would allow Russian forces in southern and eastern Ukraine to unite. But Western military analysts say that even if the city is taken, the troops battling for control block by block there may be too exhausted to ensure a Russian breakthrough on other fronts.

More than three weeks into the invasionThe two sides now appear to be trying to wear each other down, experts say, with stalled Russian forces firing long-range missiles at cities and military bases, while Ukrainian forces conduct hit-and-run attacks and attempt to sever Russia’s supply lines.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the Ukrainian resistance meant that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “forces on the ground” had essentially come to a standstill.

Talks between Russia and Ukraine continued via video conference but failed to bridge the rift between the two sides, with Russia calling for Ukraine to disarm and Ukraine saying Russian forces must withdraw from across the country.

Zelenskyy said he was ready to meet Putin in person, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday that more progress had to be made first. He said that in the talks “no significant movement has been achieved so far”.

US President Joe Biden was expected to speak later on Monday with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Britain to discuss the war before heading to the NATO and Group of Seven summits in Brussels and then Poland later in the week.

Hundreds of men, women and children have been killed in Russian attacks in Ukraine’s major cities.

Ukraine’s Attorney General said a Russian shell struck a chemical plant outside the eastern city of Sumy just after 3am Monday, causing a leak in a 50-ton tank of ammonia that took hours to contain.

Russian military spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed the leak was a “planned provocation” by Ukrainian forces to falsely accuse Russia of a chemical weapons attack.

Konashenkov also said a nighttime cruise missile attack hit a military training center in the Rivne region of western Ukraine. He said 80 foreign and Ukrainian soldiers were killed, although the number could not be independently confirmed. Vitaliy Koval, the head of Rivne’s regional military administration, confirmed a Russian double-missile attack on a training center there early Monday, but did not provide any information on the injuries or deaths.

Britain’s Defense Ministry said on Monday that Ukrainian resistance had kept the bulk of Russian forces more than 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the city center but that Kyiv “remained Russia’s primary military target”.

Russian troops have been shelling Kyiv for the fourth week, trying to encircle the capital, which had a population of nearly 3 million before the war. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko announced a curfew in the capital from Monday night to Wednesday at 7 a.m. local time, urging residents to stay at home or in emergency shelters.

A group of villages on the northwestern edge of Kyiv, including Irpin and Bucha, have been all but cut off by Russian forces and are on the brink of humanitarian disaster, regional officials said. Associated Press journalists who were in the area a week ago saw bodies in a public park and not a day goes by without smoke billowing from the area.

In another worrying development, Ukraine’s nuclear regulatory agency said radiation monitors around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, site of the world’s worst meltdown in 1986, have stopped working.

The agency said that and a shortage of firefighters to protect the region’s radiation-contaminated forests as the weather warms could mean a “significant deterioration” in the ability to control the spread of radiation in Ukraine and beyond.

Concerns have been raised about the security of the shut down plant since it was seized by Russian forces on February 24, the first day of the invasion. The plant’s management said on Sunday that 50 employees who had been working continuously since the Russian takeover were rotated and replaced.

Earlier this month, Russia shelled the operational Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, although no radiation was released.

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https://ktla.com/news/nationworld/ukraine-rejects-russian-demand-for-mariupol-to-surrender/ Ukraine rejects Russian demand for Mariupol capitulation

Dais Johnston

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