Ukrainian officials said the city of Mariupol “no longer exists” after Russia announced that there were no Ukrainian troops in the city’s urban areas.
“The situation in Mariupol is both military and tragic. The city no longer exists. The rest of the Ukrainian army and many civilians are basically surrounded by Russian troops,” he said. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
The Kremlin announced on Saturday that there are no Ukrainian troops in the city of Mariupol, the main battlefield in eastern Ukraine.
“The entire urban area of Mariupol has been completely excluded from the Nazi group” Azov “, foreign mercenaries, and militants of the Ukrainian army,” the Russian Defense Ministry wrote in a social media post.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, about 2,500 Ukrainian troops have been prevented from leaving Azohustal by Russian troops surrounding Azohustal, one of Europe’s largest metallurgical plants located east of Mariupol.
Some Ukrainian officials said their troops were still struggling in Mariupol and violated the deadline offered by Russian troops to surrender.
The Russian Defense Ministry has ordered Ukrainians at Mariupol’s giant Azovstal Ironworks to surrender until 1:00 pm on April 17, saying that those with weapons are “guaranteed to save their lives.”
Russian troops warned that Ukrainian troops refusing to surrender in the besieged port of Mariupol would be destroyed.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky threatened to cut off all negotiations with Russia if the remaining Ukrainian troops in Mariupol were eliminated.
“The more incidents like Borodianka, the less likely it is that negotiations will actually take place,” he said in an interview with the Ukrainian media. “The destruction of all of us in Mariupol, what they are doing now, can put an end to all forms of negotiation.”
Borodianka is an urban settlement about 37 miles northwest of Kieu, the capital of Ukraine, where Russian troops recently withdrew. Zelenskyy said more than 300 civilians were killed by Russian troops, of which about 30 were executed.
However, Kleber said Russia and Ukraine have not been in contact for weeks at the diplomatic level.
“The only level of contact is a negotiation team consisting of representatives from various agencies and members of parliament,” he said.
He downplayed the ceasefire negotiations and named the effort “expert-level talks.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24. This is what the Kremlin calls a “special military operation.”
As of April 15, the United Nations said 1,982 civilians had been killed, 2,651 injured and more than 4.8 million had fled Ukraine since the invasion of Russia.
Russian troops have recently shifted their focus to the south and east of Ukraine, where separatists or conflict areas are located. The Kremlin seems to be intended to occupy the corridor connecting Crimea and Donbus, and Mariupol is an important city along the corridor.
However, the ceasefire in this area is at a standstill, and the two seem to be in an irreconcilable position.
The gap between Russian and Ukrainian demands does not seem to be filled by the Crimean and Donbus issues. Both regions have been virtually occupied by Russian or pro-Russian separatists.
Putin explicitly demanded that Ukraine recognize Crimean as part of Russia and Donetsk and Luhansk as independent. Zelensky, meanwhile, agreed that conflicts in these areas could be canceled, but also vowed not to give up on them.