Ruined Mariupol forever etched in Ukraine’s history

17 May 2022, 21:04

Ukraine Mariupol
Ukraine Mariupol. Picture: PA

Seizing Mariupol gives Russian president Vladimir Putin an elusive military victory.

The ruined seaside city of Mariupol, whose capture has become a key Russian objective, is now irrevocably etched into Ukrainian history, regardless of the outcome of the war.

In the end, a small group of outgunned and outmanned nationalist fighters held out for months, drawing Russian airstrikes, artillery and tank fire down upon the massive Azovstal steel plant, where they made their last stand.

“The 83 days of the defence of Mariupol will go down in history as Thermopylae of the 21st century,” said Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukraine’s president.

“The Azovstal defenders thwarted the enemy’s plans to seize eastern Ukraine, drew away enormous numbers of enemy forces, and changed the course of the war.”

Ukraine Russia
Buildings damaged during heavy fighting in Mariupol (AP)

Thermopylae is widely considered one of history’s most glorious defeats, in which 300 Spartans held off a much larger Persian force in 480 BC, before finally succumbing.

They were killed to a man, including their king.

Mariupol’s martyrdom first came into focus with the March 9 Russian airstrike on a maternity hospital, then with another airstrike a week later on a theatre that was serving as the city’s largest bomb shelter, with the word CHILDREN written in Russian on the pavement outside to deter an attack.

Nearly 600 people were killed, inside and outside the theatre, by some estimates.

Russia Ukraine War
A woman who fled from Mariupol (Francisco Seco/AP)

Suddenly, no place felt safe, and its residents fled by the thousands.

But those at Azovstal, the steel mill in the port on the Sea of Azov, hunkered down in the labyrinth of tunnels and underground rooms.

On some days, it was targeted by dozens of explosions. Little by little, the Azovstal civilians took advantage of humanitarian ceasefires to flee.

Finally, on Monday, more than 260 fighters, some of them seriously wounded and taken out on stretchers, emerged and turned themselves over to the Russian side.

The two governments are negotiating their fate.

Ukraine Russia
Tanks in Mariupol (Alexei Alexandrov/AP)

Other fighters, their precise numbers unknown, remain inside the ruins that sprawl over four square miles in the otherwise now Russian-held city of shattered buildings and apartment blocks.

What Russia described as a mass surrender, the Ukrainians say was a mission fulfilled.

The capture of the strategic port city would allow Moscow to link the Crimean Peninsula, which it annexed in 2014, with the separatist regions of the Donbas that it now controls, and on to the Russian border.

Seizing Mariupol also gives Russian president Vladimir Putin an elusive military victory – won at the cost of the city itself, which lies in ruins as it has since the siege began at the beginning of March.

One Mariupol resident, who fled her home in April with little hope of return, said: “It is very difficult when you see that your city, which has been built before your eyes and restored, becoming more and more beautiful, is dying.”

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

President Joe Biden listens as Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson speaks

Ketanji Brown Jackson to be sworn in as US Supreme Court justice

An investigator works outside the Bataclan concert hall (Christophe Ena/PA)

Life without parole for surviving extremist who carried out Paris attacks

A shark is seen swimming across a sand bar (Phil Marcelo/AP)

Great white sharks head to Cape Cod as busy tourist season gets under way

Police outside the Bataclan concert hall in Paris (Catherine Wylie/PA)

Men convicted of involvement in 2015 terror attacks in Paris

Salah Abdeslam is believed to be the only surviving member of the group that killed 130 people in the 2015 Paris attacks

Islamic State member found guilty of mass murder for 2015 Paris terror attacks

Vatican Pope Pelosi

Pro-choice Nancy Pelosi receives communion at Vatican despite home city ban

Workers clear debris at the Kremenchuk shopping centre damaged in the Russian rocket attack

Search ongoing for 20 missing after Russian strike on Ukraine shopping centre

People attend a community vigil for the dozens of people found dead in a trailer in San Antonio

‘Difficult process’ identifying Texas lorry trailer death victims – authorities

World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

US abortion ruling ‘a setback’ that will cost lives, says WHO chief

Dutch farmers protesting against government plans gather for a demonstration at Stroe

Dutch PM condemns farmers’ protests at minister’s home

Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, is sworn in by committee chairman Bennie Thompson

Trump dismissed January 6 threats and wanted to join crowd, says former aide

India Killing

Hindu tailor killed in cleaver attack amid religious tensions in India

The superyacht Amadea, which was seized by the US from a Russian oligarch

£25bn from Russian oligarchs frozen in multinational seizure effort

Travis Barker is been hospitalised in LA

Travis Barker's family plea for 'prayers' after drummer hospitalised with mystery illness

Airbnb has permanently banned parties at all its properties

Airbnb permanently bans parties at all properties around the world

Capitol Riot Investigation

Trump was told protesters had weapons on January 6, former aide says