Ukraine rejects Putin's order to surrender besieged Mariupol as fighting engulfs city

20 March 2022, 21:35 | Updated: 21 March 2022, 05:45

Putin has given Ukraine hours to surrender Mariupol to "end human catastrophe".
Putin has given Ukraine hours to surrender Mariupol to "end human catastrophe". Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

Ukraine has rejected Vladimir Putin's demand to surrender the stricken city of Mariupol.

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RIA, a Russian state-owned domestic news agency, reported that Ukraine had until the early hours of Monday morning to say whether it will surrender Mariupol.

It carried a statement from Russia's Ministry of Defence, which said it was opening humanitarian corridors out of Mariupol from 10am local time on Monday and told Ukrainian forces defending the city to lay down their arms and leave.

It demanded Kyiv respond in writing on Monday to its ultimatum by 5am Moscow time (2am GMT) - but Ukraine has rejected this.

"There can be no question of any surrender, laying down of arms," Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

"We have already informed the Russian side about this."

The Russian MoD earlier also appealed to the authorities of Mariupol, saying they are either "with their people, or with the bandits".

Reuters reports that Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, the director of the Russian National Center for Defense Management, urged Ukrainian forces to "lay down your arms".

"A terrible humanitarian catastrophe has developed," Mizintsev said. "All who lay down their arms are guaranteed safe passage out of Mariupol."

Read more: Russian forces bomb art school where 400 people were taking shelter in Mariupol

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The stark ultimatum comes as fierce fighting continues on the streets of Mariupol, with Russian forces continuing to target areas used as refuge by Ukrainians.

Ukrainian officials said Russian forces bombed an art school where 400 people were taking shelter on Saturday.

Women, children and the elderly had been in the school, officials said.

The information has not yet been independently verified and there is no information on casualties yet.

Former chief of defence staff Lord Dannat told Swarbrick on Sunday on LBC today there were 'shades of Srebrenica' in Putin's siege of Mariupol.

Ukraine's president Volodomyr Zelensky condemned Russia's bombing of Mariupol, saying their actions would "go down in history" as being responsible for "war crimes".

In a late-night address, he said: “To do this to a peaceful city, what the occupiers did, is a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come."