Fall of Mariupol

The surrender of an estimated 1,000 defensive forces who were holed up in the sprawling Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol likely marks the end of fighting in the eastern Ukrainian city that has been under a long Russian siege. Russia had announced a few weeks ago of having taken over the city. But hundreds of fighters remained in the steel mill. With many of them ending the fight and allowing themselves to be evacuated to the Russia-controlled territories of Donbas, the whole city is now in the hands of the Russians. Kyiv also said it wanted to save the lives of its servicemen. Mariupol, with a pre-war population of half a million, most of them Russian-speaking, had been briefly taken over by pro-Russian separatists in 2014, immediately after Russia annexed Crimea. But Ukrainian nationalist forces, including the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, took the city back and drove the separatists further towards east. Ever since then, the city, which hosted the headquarters of the Azov Battalion, has become a flashpoint in Ukraine’s civil conflict — for Ukrainian nationalists, a symbol of resistance, but for Russia-backed Donbas militias, a part of their claimed territories. Now, with Mariupol’s capture, the Russians can finally claim a major victory. But the fact that it took almost three months for Russia’s better-equipped military to make this happen speaks a lot about Ukraine’s resistance.

Russia has suffered several setbacks in its invasion of Ukraine. It started a three-front war but was met with fierce Ukrainian resistance in the north and east. Later, Russia gave up its attempts to envelope Kyiv in the northern front and, at least for now, retreated from Kharkiv, the northeastern city. Its battleground focus is now almost entirely on the Donbas region where Russian troops are making incremental advances. Now, with Mariupol under its control, Russia can free up resources to move to its next target, which suggests that the war could grind on. The tragedy of Ukraine is that it has got stuck in a larger power rivalry between the West and Russia. Despite the West’s massive financial and military support, Ukraine keeps losing territories. On the other side, even as Russia is making slow battleground gains in Ukraine, it is facing bigger setbacks. The invasion has already prompted Finland and Sweden, which have historically stayed out of military alliances, to formally seek NATO membership. So, in less than three months since the invasion began, there are no clear winners — Ukraine is losing territories, Russia is witnessing another round of NATO’s enlargement, and Europe, battered by inflation and an energy crisis, is likely to be facing prolonged instability and conflicts.

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Printable version | May 19, 2022 2:12:16 am | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/the-hindu-editorial-on-fall-of-mariupol/article65426546.ece