Chris Lange, FISM News
Ukrainian officials defiantly rejected Russia’s demand to lay down arms and surrender Mariupol in exchange for safe passage out of the besieged port city ahead of a 5 a.m. deadline this morning.
“There can be no talk of any surrender, laying down of arms,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk said, according to the Associated Press. “We have already informed the Russian side about this.”
Nearly every structure in Mariupol has been reduced to heaps of rubble, including 80% of its homes, reducing the once-bustling city of over 400,000 to a scene out of an apocalyptic nightmare. Those who have been unable to flee have now gone weeks without reliable food, water, and electricity as the humanitarian crisis continues to accelerate.
Numerous attempts to evacuate residents have either failed or only partially succeeded due to continued attacks by Russian forces on designated humanitarian corridors. Still, Vereshchuk said over 7,000 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Sunday, more than half of them from Mariupol.
Reports of Russia “deporting” Ukrainians
A disturbing report from Mariupol’s city council related that thousands of residents have been “deported” to Russia over the past week through humanitarian corridors, according to Reuters. Multiple Russian news agencies have confirmed that buses carrying hundreds of Mariupol refugees had arrived in Russia over the past few days.
U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told CNN the deportation accounts were “disturbing” and “unconscionable” if true, but said Washington had not yet confirmed them.
At least 2,300 people – including women, children, and infants – have died in the siege on Mariupol, according to Ukrainian officials who have been forced to dump bodies in mass graves.
Russia continues to target civilian centers
Russian forces struck an art school in the city Sunday where hundreds of civilians were taking shelter, just days after blasting apart a theater being used as a bomb shelter by more than 1,000 people, including children. Rescue efforts are underway at both sites, where workers have been hampered by near constant attacks. Casualties, if any, have not yet been reported with regard to either attack.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned Moscow that the horrors faced by the people of Mariupol “is a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come” during his regular Sunday night address. “The more Russia uses terror against Ukraine, the worse the consequences for it,” he added.
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Early Monday, Zelenskyy vowed that Ukraine forces “will certainly shoot down the pilot who dropped that bomb, like about 100 other such mass murderers whom we already have downed.”
Elsewhere, at least 40 Ukrainian troops were killed in a missile strike on marine barracks Friday in the Black Sea port of Mykolaiv. Russian air forces also struck a Ukrainian army military facility in Rivne Region with cruise missiles, Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Monday, according to Reuters.
Five people, including a 9-year-old boy, were killed in Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv in the northeast which has also been under heavy bombardment for weeks. Ukrainian forces are desperately trying to retain control of the strategically- and culturally-significant city situated roughly 25 miles from Russia’s border.
Meanwhile, around 70 orphaned babies were evacuated from Sumy, another northeastern Ukrainian city under siege. The region’s governor said most of the infants require constant medical attention and will be taken to an unspecified foreign country.
Moscow also claimed Sunday to have fired its second round of nuclear-capable hypersonic Kinzhal missiles at a fuel-storage facility in the Mykolaiv region in the south, just a day after slamming the Ivano-Frankivs region with hypersonic weapons – the first time any such missiles have ever been used in combat.
Peace talks remain stalled
President Zelenskyy on Sunday said Ukraine wants peace and that ongoing negotiations with Russia are necessary, though the conflict seems to have become a war of attrition.
The Kremlin said on Monday that peace talks have yielded no significant progress, accusing Kyiv of making unacceptable proposals. Ukraine has expressed a willingness to accept neutrality and even forego NATO membership, one of Russia’s key demands, but says it will not surrender to the Kremlin or agree to ultimatums.
In a conference call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said significant progress in the talks must be achieved before President Vladimir Putin will agree to sit down with Zelenskyy, in response to the Ukrainian president’s repeated offers to speak face-to-face with his Russian counterpart.
“For us to speak of a meeting between the two presidents, homework has to be done. Talks have to be held and their results agreed upon,” Peskov said. “There has been no significant progress so far.”
Peskov also repeated the Kremlin’s claims that Russia has displayed more willingness than Ukraine to work toward any sort of agreement.
“Those [countries] who can, should use their influence over Kyiv to make it more accommodating and constructive at these talks,” he said.
Zelenskyy appeals to Israeli Parliament for Iron Dome
President Zelenskyy spoke to Israel’s parliament via video link on Sunday and questioned Israel’s reluctance to allow Ukraine to purchase its Iron Dome missile defense system.
“Everybody knows that your missile defense systems are the best … and that you can definitely help our people, save the lives of Ukrainians, of Ukrainian Jews,” said Zelenskyy, who is of Jewish heritage.
Zelenskyy also thanked Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for his efforts to serve as a mediator between him and Putin, having already held numerous calls with both leaders..
Biden to speak with European leaders Monday
Back in Washington, the White House announced Sunday that President Biden will meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda following his scheduled visit to meet with NATO members and European allies Friday to discuss the war. Poland has played a crucial role in the ongoing conflict, hosting thousands of American troops and receiving over two million Ukrainian refugees.
Today, President Biden is expected to talk with European leaders – including Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the U.K., President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, and Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy – to discuss their ongoing and united responses to “the humanitarian and human rights crisis that Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked war on Ukraine has created,” according to a statement by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.