Mariupol’s surrender ended the most devastating siege of Russia’s war in Ukraine and allowed President Vladimir Putin to claim a rare victory in his wavering campaign, which many military analysts say has stalled. While Russia called it surrender, Ukrainians avoided the word.
Finland and Sweden have formally applied to join NATO in a move prompted by security concerns related to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership is unlikely to make ‘much difference’ as both countries have long participated in alliance military exercises .
Mariupol appeared on the verge of falling to the Russians on Tuesday as Ukraine prepared to abandon the steelworks where hundreds of its fighters had stood for months under relentless bombardment in the city’s last bastion of resistance devastated.
Taking Mariupol would make it the largest city to be taken by Moscow’s forces and give the Kremlin a much-needed victory, although the landscape was largely reduced to rubble.
More than 260 Ukrainian fighters – some seriously injured and taken away on stretchers – left the ruins of the Azovstal factory on Monday and surrendered to the Russian side under a deal brokered by the warring parties.
Seven additional buses carrying an unknown number of Ukrainian soldiers from the factory were seen arriving at a former penal colony in the town of Olenivka, about 88 kilometers north of Mariupol, on Tuesday.
While Russia called it a surrender, the Ukrainians avoided that word and instead said the factory garrison had successfully completed its mission to pin down Russian forces and was under new orders.
Taking full control of Mariupol would give Russia an unbroken land bridge to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014, and deprive Ukraine of a vital port. It could also free up Russian forces to fight elsewhere in Donbass, the eastern industrial heartland the Kremlin is determined to capture. And that would give Russia a victory after repeated setbacks on the battlefield and on the diplomatic front, beginning with the failed attempt to storm the capital, Kyiv.