More heavy weapons needed to lift siege of Mariupol, says Zelensky

21 April, 09:03 PM
Volodymyr Zelensky (Photo:president.gov.ua)

Volodymyr Zelensky (Photo:president.gov.ua)

Relieving Mariupol by military means would require further shipments of heavy weapons from the West, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a joint briefing with visiting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on April 21.

According to the Ukrainian government, as many as 120,000 civilians are trapped in the destroyed city, including several thousand soldiers and civilians holed up in the Azovstal plant, which is being besieged by Russian troops.

“De-blockading Mariupol... could be done in several ways; the military oneis something we’re preparing for, building up strength (for),” Zelensky said.

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“That will require the help of our partners – we need the proper weapons; but that’s something we’re thinking through.”

“Another, diplomatic, humanitarian way... could be done very quickly; we proposed several such options through intermediaries, including (prisoner)exchanges.”

The president said that Ukraine is prepared to exchange POWs and wounded personnel, adding that Mariupol’s defenders are taking care of their wounded.

Ukrainian troops holding out in the city have rejected a series of Russian surrender ultimatums, and have been under heavy bombardment. At least1,000 civilians are also trapped in the tunnels beneath Azovstal: women and children, seniors, and families of Ukrainian soldiers.

On April 20, Ukrainian negotiators – David Arakhamia and Mykhailo Podolyak – said they were prepared to hold the next round of talks in Mariupol in person, in order to discuss with the Russians the evacuation ofcivilians and the city’s defenders.

Mariupol has been resisting Russian attacks since March 1, and the fighting has destroyed 95% of the city to date. As many as 22,000 residents have died in the city, which is now without water, power, heating, and mobile phone network coverage.

On April 21, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin ordered his defense minister, Sergey Shoigu, to “cancel” the assault on Azovstal, citing it as “inexpedient.” Earlier, Zelensky said that eliminating Ukrainian troops in the city would put an end to peace talks with Moscow.

However, the Russian air force continues to bomb Azovstal, and fighting isongoing close to a nearby tram depot, according to municipal officials.

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