Ukraine has rejected Russia’s demand that Ukrainian forces in the port city of Mariupol lay down their arms and surrender in exchange for safe passage out of the town, Al Jazeera is reporting.
“There can be no question of any surrender, laying down of arms. We have already informed the Russian side about this,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk told the news outlet Ukrainska Pravda.
In a video on Telegram, Ms Vereshchuk added that the Russians “continue to behave like terrorists.”
“They say they agree on the humanitarian corridor and in the morning, shell the place for evacuation,” she said. I wrote: ‘Instead of wasting time on eight pages of letters, just open the corridor.”
Mariupol Mayor Piotr Andryushchenko also rejected the Russian demand for surrender, saying in a Facebook post he did not need to wait until morning to respond and cursing at the Russians, according to the news agency Interfax Ukraine.
Russian Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev said on Sunday that Moscow would allow two corridors out of the coastal city, heading east towards Russia and west to other parts of Ukraine.
“All who lay down their arms are guaranteed safe passage out of Mariupol,” he said, giving authorities until 5 a.m. on Monday (02:00 GMT) to respond to the offer.
He, however, did not say what action Russia would take if the offer was rejected.
The Russian Ministry of Defence, addressing Mariupol authorities on messaging app Telegram, said the officials “now have the right to make a historic choice” and warned they could face a military tribunal if they sided with what it described as “criminals”.
Mariupol has suffered some of the heaviest bombardments since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 in its ‘special operations’ and ‘denazification’ of the Eastern European country.
Many of the city’s 400,000 people are trapped, with little food, water and power, while city officials say at least 2,300 people have died, some buried in mass graves.
Moscow’s call for surrender came hours after Ukrainian authorities said the Russian military bombed an art school in Mariupol that was sheltering hundreds of people. There was no immediate word on casualties in the school attack.
Speaking in a video address, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that about 400 civilians were taking shelter at the art school in the besieged Azov Sea port city when it was struck by a Russian bomb.
“They are under the rubble, and we don’t know how many of them have survived,” he said. “But we know that we will certainly shoot down the pilot who dropped that bomb, like about 100 other such mass murderers whom we already have downed.”
The raid on the art school was the second time in less than a week that officials reported an attack on a public building where Mariupol residents had taken shelter.
On Wednesday, a bomb hit a theatre where more than 1,000 people were believed to be sheltering.
Ukrainian officials have not given an update on the search of the theatre since Friday, when they said at least 130 people had been rescued and another 1,300 were trapped by rubble.
Russia on February 24 attacked Ukraine in what it called a ‘special operation’ to ‘denazify’ the Eastern European country
The nearly one month old war has left at least 847 civilians dead and 1,399 injured, according to the UN human rights office (OHCHR).
As of March 16, the UN migration agency estimates, nearly 6.5 million people have been displaced inside Ukraine, in addition to the 3.2 million refugees who have already fled the country.
The estimates from the International Organisation for Migration suggests that more people may be displaced in Ukraine than the 13 million displaced in Syria during the war there.
Chiamaka Okafor is a reporter at Premium Times in partnership with Report for the World, which matches local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on under-covered issues around the globe.