April 12, 2022 9:29 am
It is Ukraine’s worst military defeat since the beginning of the Russian invasion on February 24th. The conquest of the port of Mariupol has already been announced by the pro-Russian separatists and is regarded as imminent and inevitable by the Ukrainian government.
On the morning of 11 April, the last Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol, entrenched in an industrial area after more than a month of siege and fighting, posted a farewell message on social networks. “We do everything possible and impossible,” wrote the soldiers of the 36th Ukrainian brigade. “For some it will be death, for others imprisonment”.
The soldiers report that they have run out of ammunition, food and water, and that the promised supplies have not arrived. “Don’t speak ill of the marines,” they conclude. “We are forever faithful”.
This desperate message confirms the pessimism expressed on April 11 by Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskii, who accused Russia of destroying Mariupol. According to all the testimonies it is a humanitarian disaster, with thousands of civilian victims (including many children) and a city largely destroyed at the end of a medieval siege.
Mariupol has a symbolic as well as a strategic dimension. In 2014, when the war broke out in Donbass, pro-Russian separatists had conquered the city, which was then taken over by the Ukrainian army. Since February 24, Mariupol has been a prime target for the Russians. This is where the Chechen fighters were sent. After the failure of the offensive around Kiev, which ended with the evacuation of Russian troops, Putin needed a first success: Mariupol was the declared target.
This is the decisive battle of this war, with a Russian army closer to its bases
The control of this industrial port on the Azov Sea is the key to the territorial continuity that Russia wants to achieve between the two separatist republics of Donbas and the Crimea, annexed in 2014. The conquest of Mariupol opens the way to a new phase of the war , with the Russian offensive to conquer the Donbass areas that are still beyond its control.
In Mariupol the Ukrainian forces were unable to rescue the besieged comrades. The objective, at this point, is to avoid the encirclement maneuver that the Russian army is trying to implement.
Ukraine maintains about a quarter of its army in this area, including the best-trained units. In short, it is the decisive battle of this war, with a Russian army closer to its bases and reinforced by units transferred from the Kiev region and brought here via Belarus.
Putin hopes to achieve the goal of disconnecting Ukraine from its fertile plains and its access to the Sea of Azov before the commemoration of the victory over Nazism on 9 May. On 11 April Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, rejected any call for a ceasefire. Russia will go all the way and the conquest of Mariupol, a city in ruins, is the tragic proof of this.
(Translation by Andrea Sparacino)