Updated Mar 21, 2022 - World

Ukraine rejects Russian demands to lay down arms in Mariupol

Civilians trapped in Mariupol city under Russian attacks, are evacuated in groups under the control of pro-Russian separatists, through other cities, in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 20.
Civilians are evacuated in groups under the control of pro-Russian separatists from Mariupol, Ukraine, on Sunday. Photo: Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Ukrainian officials have refused the Russian military's demands to lay down their arms in Mariupol in exchange for the safe passage of civilians out of the southeastern port city on Monday morning.

Driving the news: Russian Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev set the 5am Moscow time deadline that came and went in a statement saying that his forces would open two corridors out of Mariupol to the east and the west on Monday, as Russia's military continued its bombardment of the besieged city.

  • "A terrible humanitarian catastrophe has developed," said Mizintsev, per a Reuters translation, hours after Ukrainian officials reported Russia's military bombing a Mariupol art school. "All who lay down their arms are guaranteed safe passage out of Mariupol."

What they're saying: Ukraine's deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk told the Ukrainska Pravda news site, "There can be no talk of any surrenders, laying down of arms. We have already informed the Russian side about this. I wrote: 'Instead of wasting time on 8 pages of letters, just open a corridor.'"

The big picture: The art school attack was the second time in a week that Russian forces had targeted a building sheltering civilians in Mariupol, after the bombing of a theater where hundreds of Ukrainians had sought refuge.

Between the lines: Mariupol is the largest city in the Ukrainian-controlled portion of Donetsk and of great strategic importance to Russian forces.

  • If it were to fall it would create a land corridor "between Crimea and the Russian-backed regions of Luhansk and Donetsk," per the BBC.

Yes, but: Western military analysts note that even if Mariupol were seized by Russian forces, "the troops battling a block at a time for control there may be too depleted to help secure Russian breakthroughs on other fronts," AP reports.

  • "The block-by-block fighting in Mariupol itself is costing the Russian military time, initiative, and combat power," said D.C.-based research group the Institute for the Study of War at a briefing, per AP.

Go deeper ... Dashboard: Russian invasion of Ukraine

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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