What does the fall of Mariupol mean for
Russia and Ukraine?


Ukrainian soldiers stationed at an iron plant located in Mariupol have surrendered. This is the
symbol of Russia’s authority, following months of an abrasive attack on the port city, but it’s a
triumph that comes at a staggering price.

On Monday more than 250 Ukrainian fighters including 53 wounded soldiers were removed out
of Azovstal iron and steelworks, Ukrainian officials said. They were been locked up for several
weeks in the city’s last defense against Russian bombardment.

Today, Ukrainian fighters are reportedly being transferred to territory under Russian control in
Russia, where, according to Ukraine’s deputy defense minister who is deputy defense minister,
they will be exchanged as prisoners in exchange for Russian soldiers. Russia has stated they
will deal with the soldiers ” consistent with the applicable international law,” though certain
Russian officials have demanded that the Ukrainian combatants be tried in court as war crime
suspects. There are still a lot of fighters in the plant but what exactly will be done to them
remains unclear, but there are reports that suggest they also will be evacuated and taken out of

“The 82nd day for our defense is drawing towards a close,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr
Zelenskyy stated in a video message Monday evening. “A difficult day. However, this day, like
every other day is geared towards protecting our nation as well as our citizens.”

“I would like to stress that Ukraine requires Ukrainian heroes to be alive,” he added. “This is our
main objective. I believe that any decent person will be able to comprehend these phrases.”

Mariupol, located in the Sea of Azov was an urban area of over 400,000. It was before the
Russian invasion. The idea of capturing it was at the heart of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s
claims that he’s seeking to “liberate” Russian speakers from Ukrainian control. The city has
been submerged under Russian bombardment for the duration of the conflict. To take it back,
Russia had to effectively eliminate it and take it away from its inhabitants and civilians, killing
hundreds of civilians and making many of them into refugees.

However, the resistance of Ukrainian combatants in Mariupol caused the Russian army to be
slowed down by Russian forces and their resources, which prevented the Russians from
achieving their goals elsewhere. “They provided a precious amount of moments, from a
strategic perspective, to allow Ukrainian forces to defend other areas, regroup, and also receive
additional arms from western countries,” stated Natia Seskuria an expert Russia specialist and
an associate member of the Royal United Services Institute.

The defiance of Ukrainian fighters at the steel plant — and earlier, that of the civilians, who had
been evacuated earlier in the month from the facility -and also denied Putin the victory that the
Russian leader was seeking, particularly ahead of the Russian Victory Day holiday earlier in
May. The determination of those inside the steel plant in the midst of a relentless Russian attack
was woven into the bigger story Kyiv, as well as its allies, have been telling about how fierce
Ukraine’s resistance was. Ukrainian resistance.

“Russia could get what’s left from the city. But wow is it gone from the story?” stated Olga Oliker,
the International Crisis Group’s director of programs in Europe as well as Central Asia.

“On one side, the Ukrainian side, there are stories of heroism and self-sacrifice,” Oliker added.
“And when you look at the Russian side the only thing you have is “we kept on pummeling, and
then the pummeled.'”

Putin was the one who announced Mariupol was “liberated” in the month of April, and as the
experts had said, aside from the protesters in the plant that produces steel, Mariupol was
already under Russian control. However, that surrender to these troops is still a victory for
Russia and its allies, particularly when the Kremlin attempts to consolidate areas in the east as
well as the southern part of Ukraine.

At the present, the war is continuing to grind on and Russia taking incremental steps forward as
well as Ukraine is launching counter offensives in order to regain some of the gains, similar to
what Ukrainian soldiers are currently engaged in within Kharkiv. Mariupol is part of the bigger
battle, in its position as an example of the destruction and the unimaginable human suffering of the Ukraine conflict so far. What Putin can now call the city of Mariupol that was that has been
razed to the ground.

Mariupol is strategically and symbolically significant — both for Ukraine as well as for Russia

In May 2014 after Russian troops attacked the Donbas to support rebels in the region the
Russian-backed separatists briefly took the city of Mariupol. They remained in Mariupol for a few
weeks before Ukrainian government forces took back Mariupol at the end of June.

In many ways, it was a glimpse of the reasons Mariupol was always likely to be a crucial city in
the event of a Russian strike in Ukraine as well as how its fate is linked to more fundamental
themes of the conflict.

Ukraine particularly following 2014 was viewed by Mariupol as a key element in any kind of
defense that it may have to put in place against an eventual Russian attack. “The Ukrainian
military has been prepared for this exact scenario over the last seven years,” stated Mason
Clark who is the chief Russia expert for the Institute for the Study of War.

While the siege was playing out, it was evident that the Ukrainian military had invested lots of
money into the defense of Mariupol that allowing it to withstand months of Russian
bombardment. Mariupol’s endurance in the face of brutal assaults also assisted Ukraine to
make requests for aid from abroad and military aid that the West is currently providing in
significant ways.

However, that defiance came with the price of a loss: Mariupol’s inability to fall against Russia’s
assault was the reason it was the focus of an incessant and unrelenting military operation.

Russia was a major threat to the city in the early months of March, destroying homes, damaging
the electricity and water infrastructures, and cutting off the supply of food and medicines.
Residents were forced to melt snow to get the water; bodies were scattered on the streets. In
March it was reported that the Russian military destroyed a maternity unit after which, a few
days afterward, it bombed a theater in which hundreds of residents were sheltered.

The total human cost remains unclear However, in the last month an official from the United
Nations described Mariupol as the ” center of hell.” This month it was reported that there was a
breakthrough in the negotiations between the UN as well as the International Committee of the
Red Cross reached an agreement to move civilians out of Mariupol along with the adjacent
regions, including the 1,000 or so civilians being held in the steel plant many with diminishing
food water, food, and supplies. The fate of the hundreds of thousands that remain in the city
remains unclear. Apart from the thousands who have left, Ukraine has alleged that the city was
awash with Russia and had forcefully relocated thousands of civilians into Russian territories.
According to officials, around two thousand people may are believed to have been killed.
Satellite images show mass graves.

Russian troops were “really punished Mariupol for not welcoming them, and not simply walking
around, but not comprehending its significance in their bizarre view of this part that is the entire
world.” declared Brian Milakovsky an expert on economic conditions of the eastern region of
Ukraine. “I believe there’s something to the situation that is that people went into the city
expecting easy, expecting to be welcomed with salt and bread. But instead, they faced
opposition and even resistance from the civic community.”

Mariupol is also in line with the claims of Putin that he initiated a “special operational military
campaign” in the hope of “de-Nazify” Ukraine and protecting Russian-speaking people. Mariupol
is the home of the Azov Battalion, a regiment that is part of the National Guard of Ukraine with a
strong right-wing inclination. Its members took on the opposition in the steel plant.

The Azov Battalion grew out of a neo-Nazi gang after the 2014 military invasion. It evolved into
a far-right militia that fought Russian separatists during the conflict. (It also assisted in helping
the Ukrainian government take back Mariupol at the end of the year 2014.) The group has been
in response to pressures from authorities from the Ukrainian government, and retreated from
the extremist links but continues to function as a largely independent group with occasional
radical activities.

Putin has not stopped exploiting the origins of the Azov regiment to create his own fake story.
This Azov regiment is described as the symbol for those who are referred to as Nazis who are in
Ukraine, bolstered by the propaganda machine that is at home. According to Clark declared,
Russia “built up Mariupol as the central point of fascism the Ukrainian military, which they claim
they’re targeting.”

What will happen next?

Russia has been calling Mariupol a “mass surrender,” a sign they are trying to promote this as a
victory. However, as Seskuria stated, the declaring victory “doesn’t convey the meaning they
had in mind initially because it took them nearly three months to complete Mariupol.”

Of course, Russia had far more ambitious plans from the beginning of the war. Mariupol was not
the prize, Kyiv was. Russia has since re-enacted its military operations in the eastern and south
of Ukraine in the south, in which Mariupol is more important. However, as with Mariupol, it was
necessary for Russian troops to put energy and resources into a battle which was a couple of
thousand troops in the steel plant’s tunnels plant endured for months.

Russia has stated that it wants “full control” in The Donbas along with southern Ukraine and
Mariupol assists Russia to cut out this part of Ukraine from east to and including the Crimean

However, according to experts, an evacuation by Ukrainian troops from Mariupol will not
significantly change the course of the war at this point partly because the Russians already held
a significant control of Mariupol — which means that any strategic advantage Mariupol might
bring, Russia has already largely made money from the opportunity.

And Russia is currently battling to gain complete control over the eastern and southern regions
of Ukraine. In the eastern region particularly, Russia’s offensive is in a stalemate because of
Kyiv and Moscow as well as Kyiv trade incremental gains in territories.

Mariupol is a significant land loss in Ukraine. However, it’s an effective instrument in their own
depiction of the conflict, at home and in the world. There’s a reason why Zelenskyy said that
Mariupol’s defenses were “heroes” -and how the soldiers are treated after they are now in
Russia-controlled territory will influence the narrative. According to experts, this could be one of
the most epic heroes of the Ukraine conflict, even if it’s not the main one.

“The strategic importance of the port lies in its strategic significance.” port,” Oliker said ofMariupol. “But it was more about the tale of a city which would not fall, despite having been