By Geoffrey Smith
Investing.com — The last defenders of the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol surrendered on Wednesday, as Russian troops massed for a new attack on the surrounding regions.
The Russian Defense Ministry said that over 1,000 members of the Ukrainian Marines had been taken prisoner.
The city, which has been largely destroyed by Russian artillery and airstrikes over the last month, has been a major strategic goal for Russia since it invaded Ukraine at the end of February. Attacks on the city included one that killed over 300 civilians sheltering in a theater, and the destruction of a maternity hospital.
The developments come a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said that peace talks with Ukraine had reached “a dead end”, comments that were widely taken as signaling the start of a fresh offensive. Russia is now concentrating its forces on the eastern Ukraine region of Donbas, having been defeated in its attempts to take the capital Kyiv.
A draft report by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe published by Politico earlier found a clear pattern of international humanitarian law violations by the Russian forces in their conduct of hostilities” in Ukraine. The report also finds “credible evidence” that “the most fundamental human rights” have been violated.
Late on Wednesday, President Joe Biden signaled that the U.S. will speed up the delivery of military aid to the country, after accusing Putin of committing ‘genocide’ for the first time.
“Yes, I called it genocide. It’s become clearer and clearer that Putin is trying to wipe out the idea of even being Ukrainian,” Biden said.
Separately, Ukrainian authorities reported that they had captured Viktor Medvedchuk, a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician who had escaped house arrest in March. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had closed down television stations owned by Medvedchuk last year for spreading what he called pro-Russian propaganda.
Medvedchuk was seen as Putin’s closest ally in Ukrainian politics. Putin is reportedly the godfather of Medvedchuk’s daughter, and the two have often been photographed together.
Zelensky has now proposed exchanging Medvedchuk for Ukrainian soldiers captured by the Russians.
Mariupol Defenders Surrender as Russia Prepares Next Attack; Putin Ally Captured