The leader of the self-declared separatist region in Donetsk, Denis Pushilin, says he expects his forces to surround the port city of Mariupol on Tuesday, adding in a television interview that the town of Volnovakha – which is half-way between Mariupol and Donetsk – was almost completely surrounded.
“Our task for today is encircle Mariupol,” he said.
Pushilin claimed without offering any evidence that nationalist elements in Mariupol were terrorizing the civilian population and were using them as a human shield. The city has a population of some 400,000.
Separately, the deputy head of the Donetsk People’s Militia, Eduard Basurin, said the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), along with Russian forces, would organize humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to leave Mariupol.
The corridors would be open through Wednesday, he said.
Basurin said several towns in the region had already fallen to the militia of the DPR.
Vadym Boichenko, the mayor of Mariupol, said on Ukrainian television that residential areas had been shelled for five days – with heavy artillery, rockets and aircraft.
“There are many wounded, dead local residents, women, children.”
“But today, the best sons of their fatherland on the borders of our city are doing everything, not to give Mariupol away,” Boichenko said.
“They have destroyed important infrastructure, there is no electricity in the city, there is no heat. We are fighting to [the] last bullet."