Ukraine has appealed to Russia to allow humanitarian supplies into Mariupol and to let desperate civilians out of the besieged city which President Volodymr Zelenskiy says has been devastated by Russian bombardments.
Mariupol, a port city on the Azov Sea that was home to 400,000 people before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, has been under siege for weeks. City officials say it has no food, medicine, power or running water.
“There is nothing left there,” Zelenskiy said in a video address to the Italian parliament.
As he was speaking, the city council said Russian forces had dropped two large bombs on Mariupol but gave no details of casualties or damage.
“Once again it is clear that the occupiers are not interested in the city of Mariupol. They want to level it to the ground and make it the ashes of dead land,” the council said in a statement.
Russia denies targeting civilians and blames Ukraine for the repeated failure to establish safe passage for civilians out of Mariupol have on Ukraine.
Ukraine defied an ultimatum for the city to surrender by dawn on Monday as a condition for Russian forces to let civilians leave safely.
“We demand the opening of a humanitarian corridor for civilians,” Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Ukrainian television on Tuesday.
“Our military are defending Mariupol heroically. We did not accept the ultimatum. They offered capitulation under a white flag. This is manipulation, a lie.”
Vereshchuk said Mariupol was the main focus of government evacuation efforts but that Russian forces were also preventing humanitarian supplies reaching residents of the occupied southern city of Kherson. She gave no details.
Russia calls its military actions a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from “Nazis”. The West calls this a false pretext for an unprovoked war.
Capturing Mariupol would help Russian forces secure a land corridor to the Crimea peninsula that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
A part of Mariupol now held by Russian forces is now an eerie wasteland, a Reuters team that reached it on Sunday said. Several bodies wrapped in blankets lay by a road. Windows were blasted out and walls were charred black. People who came out of basements sat on benches amid the debris, bundled up in coats.