Ukraine’ President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Wednesday his country’s armed forces are incapable of unblocking the Russian siege on the port city of Mariupol without help from western allies.
“There are two ways to unblock Mariupol. The first one is serious, heavy armed help that we and they [Ukrainian troops in Mariupol] are counting on. With common actions we can unblock Mariupol,” he said at a press conference with European Council President Charles Michel in Kyiv.
He added: “At the moment we don't have enough of this hardware to work in this direction. The second way is diplomatic. Russia doesn't agree on it yet.”
Mariupol has been under relentless bombardment for weeks and would allow Moscow to establish control over territory linking the Donbas in south-eastern Ukraine to annexed Crimea.
Currently, Russian forces are focusing their offensive in the port city on the Azovstal steel plant, the main remaining Ukrainian stronghold there.
Ukrainian officials said on Tuesday that Russia is attacking the Azovstal steel plant with bunker-buster bombs, knowing that there are thousands of soldiers and civilians sheltering there.
Zelenskyy said: “Our troops [in Mariupol] have hundreds of injured people on their hands. Defending civilians, covering them with their backs, they [Ukrainian troops in Mariupol] are losing their lives. I don't say 'covering with their backs' simply for eloquence, but because behind the backs of our guys in Mariupol there are around a thousand civilians, including women and children, as far as I know, but I don't know how many are there exactly at this moment.”
The Russian Defense Ministry has offered Ukrainian troops amnesty if they lay down their arms in Mariupol on Tuesday and again on Wednesday when no Ukrainian soldier took them up on their offer.
The Ukrainian president added: “All guys in Mariupol, everyone wants our victory. They want the city to be unblocked. No one is going to surrender to the enemy. This is how they feel, this is who they are, and this is what is inside their souls.”