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Ukraine rejects Russian demand for surrender in Mariupol

LVIV, UKRAINE (AP) – Ukrainian officials defiantly rejected a Russian demand that their forces in Mariupol lay down arms and raise white flags yesterday in exchange for safe passage out of the besieged strategic port city.

Even as Russia intensified its attempt to bombard Mariupol into surrender, its offensive in other parts of Ukraine has floundered. Western governments and analysts see the broader conflict grinding into a war of attrition, with Russia continuing to barrage cities.

In the capital Kyiv, Russian shelling devastated a shopping centre near the city centre killing at least eight people.

The encircled southern city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov has seen some of the worst horrors of the war, under Russian pounding for more than three weeks.

Strikes hit an art school sheltering some 400 people only hours before Russia’s offer to open two corridors out of the city in return for the capitulation of its defenders, according to Ukrainian officials.

A mother embraces her son who escaped the besieged city of Mariupol and arrived at the train station in Lviv, western Ukraine. PHOTO: AP

Ukrainian officials rejected the Russian proposal for safe passage out of Mariupol even before Russia’s deadline of 5am Moscow time for a response came and went.

“There can be no talk of any surrender, laying down of arms,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk told the news outlet Ukrainian Pravda. “We have already informed the Russian side about this.”

Mariupol Mayor Piotr Andryushchenko also dismissed the offer shortly after it was made, saying in a Facebook post he didn’t need to wait until the morning deadline to respond, according to the news agency Interfax Ukraine.

Russian Col Gen Mikhail Mizintsev had offered two corridors – one heading east toward Russia and the other west to other parts of Ukraine. He did not say what Russia planned if the offer was rejected.

The Russian Ministry of Defence said authorities in Mariupol could face a military tribunal if they sided with what it described as “bandits,” the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Multiple attempts to evacuate residents from Mariupol and other Ukrainian cities have failed or only partly succeeded, with bombardments continuing as civilians tried to flee.

City officials said at least 2,300 people have died in the siege, with some buried in mass graves.

Tearful evacuees from devastated Mariupol have described how “battles took place over every street.”

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