Mariupol — partial Russian victory in Ukraine - GulfToday

Mariupol — partial Russian victory in Ukraine

Russian soldiers are positioned at a point in the city of Mariupol. Reuters

Russian soldiers are positioned at a point in the city of Mariupol. Reuters

It is now being said that Mariupol, the eastern port city of Ukraine, and more accurately of the Russian-occupied Donbas region, has fallen, and that the last of the soldiers who had resisted had surrendered. Both Kyiv and Moscow have confirmed this. The Azov Steel Plant where the Azov regiment held out the beginning of the war have now become Russian prisoners.

The Russian defence ministry said that 694 soldiers have now surrendered and the total number of those who have laid down arms goes up to 959. Those who have been injured have been sent to hospitals. While Russian President Vladimir Putin has assured that they will be treated according to international standards, other Russian leaders are saying that these Ukrainian soldiers who had once belonged to the far-right Ukrainian nationalist militia later merged with the regular Ukrainian army, and those who held on the political doctrine of extreme nationalism went into politics. Russians consider the Azov regiment soldiers to be neo-Nazis, and when Putin declared war against Ukraine on February 24, he talked of demilitarization and de-Nazification of Ukraine.

The fall of Mariupol and the surrender of Azov regiment marks the surrender of neo-Nazis, according to Russian politicians, and these politicians are now saying that these soldiers who hated the Russian-speaking Ukrainians of the Donbas should be tried as criminals and executed.

The commander of pro-Russian Ukrainian troops in Donbas said that not all the leaders of the Ukrainian soldiers in Azovstal Steel Plant have surrendered.

The question that remains is whether Russia and Putin would be satisfied with the Donbas region in the east and south, with Russia having a clear access to the Sea of Azov, and whether Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is willing to surrender the Donbas region which would lead to the bifurcation of Ukrainian state. Zelensky is unwilling to accept the Russian occupation of the east of the country.

One of the contentions between Russia and Ukraine is that Ukraine has been waging a war against the pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists in the Donbas and that the Ukrainians were persecuting Russian-speaking Ukrainians. Putin has almost made it appear that the war was to protect the Russian-speaking Ukrainian separatists from the tyrannical treatment of the Ukrainian government in Kyiv. It does appear that the Ukrainian government is now reconciled to the loss of Crimea which Russia had occupied in 2014 and incorporated it into the Russian Federation soon after.

But President Putin’s attempt to dislodge the Zelensky government and replace it with a pro-Moscow regime has failed because Kyiv and other western parts of Ukraine resisted despite massive destruction of the cities in missile attacks. The attack on Kyiv through massive movement of armoured columns has turned out to be a military disaster because the column got stuck in the sludge of the melting snows and Russia could not send reinforcement nor supply them with oil to move the column forward. It is also the case that some of the top Russian generals had died in this operation. There was a miscalculation about the strength of the Ukrainian resistance. Putin seemed to have believed that he would sweep across Ukraine with Russia’s overwhelming military strength and firepower.

The plans went awry and the Russians instead faced defeat. Putin then announced that the theatre of war would shift to the east, and the pressure on Kyiv would lessen and then cease. But the resistance at Mariupol turned out to be monumental. The outcome of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 is clear: Ukraine has resisted successfully though it has lost Mariupol.

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