Ukraine has rejected an ultimatum to surrender the besieged port city of Mariupol to Russian forces, its deputy prime minister told Ukrainian media Monday.
“There can be no talk of surrendering weapons. We have already informed the Russian side of this,” Iryna Vereshchuk told Ukrainska Pravda newspaper.
“It’s a deliberate manipulation and it’s a real hostage situation,” she added of the demand.
Russia gave the city an ultimatum late Sunday, urging its defenders to surrender before 5.00am (0300 GMT) on Monday.
“We call on units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, territorial defence battalions, foreign mercenaries to stop hostilities, lay down their arms and, along the humanitarian corridors agreed with the Ukrainian side, enter the territories controlled by Kyiv,” said Mikhail Mizintsev, head of the Russian National Defence Control Centre.
The Russian defence ministry, addressing Mariupol authorities on messaging app Telegram, wrote: “You are the ones who now have the right to make a historic choice – either you are with your people or you are with the criminals.
“Otherwise, the court martial that awaits you is only a little of what you have already earned because of your despicable attitude toward your own citizens, as well as the horrible crimes and provocations you have committed.”
Mariupol, a strategic, mostly Russian-speaking port in the southeast, has been one of the main targets of Moscow’s attacks.
The city has been hammered by Russian shelling for days, has seen a near-total communications blackout and is cut off from food, water and other supplies.
The Russian defence ministry had said it would open humanitarian corridors to allow residents to leave by 10.00am (0800 GMT) if the surrender was agreed.