Pro-Russian Rebels Report Capture of Mariupol Centrum Centre
Pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine have reported taking the centre of the port city of Mariupol. However, they say in Russian media that the main battles in Mariupol are over; only fighting is going on in the port and in the complex of the Azovstal steel factory on the eastern edge of the city centre.
There are, however, still Ukrainian defenders entrenched in underground passages, said Eduard Basurin of the ‘People’s Republic’ of Donetsk.
According to Kyiv, the city’s centre is still being defended and is still in Ukrainian hands. Basurin acknowledged on Thursday that armed civilians are also taking part in the battle and the nationalist Ukrainian militias that still have 3,500 men in the port and the steel mills. Mayor Vadim Bojchenko said there are still 100,000 civilians in the city. They must be evacuated urgently, he said. An estimated 5,000 civilians were killed in the battle, and 90 percent of the city is in ruins.
According to the rebels, the Ukrainian nationalist militias that have defended the city have set fire to a ship in the harbour. They are said to be creating situations where “images via Western media are intended to discredit the rebels and Russians”. For example, photos of killed crew members of the burned-down ship would soon be distributed, and their deaths would be blamed on the rebels.
The capture of Mariupol was one of the main objectives of the Russian invasion of Ukraine that began on February 24. The city, located less than 50 kilometres from the border with Russia, was quickly surrounded but fiercely defended by mainly far-right militias that seized the city in June 2014. In the eyes of the pro-Russian people’s militias from Donetsk and Luhansk, they are the worst enemies and responsible for war crimes in eastern Ukraine.
According to military observers, it is likely that the right-wing extremist militias such as the Azov battalion that carries Nazi symbols will fight to the last man, and the battle is far from over.