Ukraine: Street fighting prevents rescue at Mariupol theatre
By Stefan J. Bos
After weeks of encircling and shelling the area, Russian forces are now taking the fight closer to the residents of Mariupol.
Shootings and tank battles rage in Ukraine’s strategic southeastern coastal city.
The fighting made it difficult for rescue teams to reach at least hundreds of people, including women and children, trapped beneath the rubble of a theater which authorities say was attacked by Russia on Wednesday, charges the Russian military denies.
Ukrainian police officer Mihail Vershinin expressed desperation and accused the West of abandoning Ukraine. “Leaders of the US and France, you have promised us air defense systems. But we have not quite received that. Look at the city. This is only part of Mariupol that was destroyed by the air power of Russia,” he said in video remarks.
“You have promised that there will be help. But give us that help. Biden, Macron: you are great leaders, be so to the end,” Vershinin stressed. “Save the civilian population. Children and the elderly are dying here. The city is being destroyed, and it is wiped off the face of the earth,” he added.
“Or perhaps you want a new Aleppo,” he wondered, referring to the devastated city in war-torn Syria. “You have almost received it. Please give Ukraine adequate air defense systems.”
But there were no signs on Saturday that Ukrainians would be able to keep this city much longer.
Elsewhere, fierce fighting also continued more than three weeks after Russia launched its full-scale invasion.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Russia on Saturday to come to the negotiating table "without delay."
He asked Moscow to limit its losses, saying the time has come to restore "territorial integrity and justice" for Ukraine.
However, Russia's President Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine of stalling peace talks with "unrealistic proposals" in a call with the German chancellor.
Western leaders say Russia has been “surprised by the scale and ferocity of the Ukrainian resistance” since it attacked its southern neighbor.
More than 3 million people have fled Europe’s worst conflict since World War Two.