Ukraine on Monday rejected Russian calls to surrender the port city of Mariupol, where residents are besieged with little food, water and power in a humanitarian crisis that is increasing pressure on European leaders to toughen sanctions on Moscow.
Ukraine’s government defiantly rejected Russian calls for Ukrainian forces in Mariupol to lay down their arms in exchange for safe passage out of the city and humanitarian corridors to be opened from 1000 Moscow time (0700 GMT) on Monday.
“There can be no question of any surrender, laying down of arms,” the Ukrainska Pravda news portal cited Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk as saying.
“We have already informed the Russian side about this.”
Mariupol has suffered some of the heaviest bombardments since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Many of its 400,000 residents remain trapped as fighting rages on the streets around them.
Vereshchuk said over 7,000 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Sunday, more than half from Mariupol. She said the government planned to send nearly 50 buses there on Monday for further evacuations.
Russia and Ukraine have made agreements throughout the war on humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians, but have accused each other of frequent violations of those.
The crisis in Mariupol and other devastated Ukrainian cities is likely to feature heavily in discussions between European Union leaders this week as they consider imposing tougher sanctions on Russia including an oil embargo.