Russian-backed separatists are planning to turn Ukraine’s bombarded port city of Mariupol into a resort town — wiping out symbols of Ukrainian resistance but also dismantling the steel plant production that has fueled the area’s economy.
Denis Pushilin, the head of the Moscow-backed separatists calling themselves the Donetsk People’s Republic, announced plans to tear down the Azovstal steel plant — where a small band of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians were holed up for weeks as President Vladimir Putin’s forces encircled and besieged the city.
Humanitarian convoys organized by aid groups evacuated civilians from Azovstal earlier this month, while Ukraine evacuated its soldiers in recent days — ending Mariupol’s final resistance and effectively ceding control of the city to Russia.
Destroying Azovstal would deny Russian forces of steel production that previously fueled Ukraine’s economy.
Before the war, the plant was responsible for the production of thousands of tons of steel, millions of tons of iron and rolled metal, according to a statement from Mariupol’s city council on Telegram.
The plant also supported 10,000 jobs and brought in “billions of dollars” in taxes and foreign currency income, it said.
“The Russians are preventively destroying an industrial complex important for Ukraine,” the city council said. “They want to erase any reminder of the heroic deed of the Ukrainian military.”
The Insitute for the Study of War said the plan to turn “Mariupol into a center of tourism and leisure following the complete destruction of a major center of economic activity in Mariupol is indicative of the damage that Russian troops have inflicted on themselves.”
The Institute for the Study of War said Russia doesn’t need a resort town on the Black Sea, but it does need the revenue from Azovstal.
Mariupol city council alleged that Russia isn’t interested in restoring or developing the city, and accused it of seizing Mariupol to have a land bridge to connect Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region with Crimea — which Russia invaded and annexed in 2014.
Russia’s months-long campaign to capture Mariupol left thousands of dead and the city in ruins as President Vladimir Putin’s forces relentlessly and indiscriminately bombed targets like hospitals, schools, and shelters.