Mariupol completely surrounded and all routes to city are destroyed, Russia claims

Mariupol completely surrounded and all routes to city are destroyed, Russia claims
Situation ‘critical’ as desperate residents stuck without aid supplies

Russia claimed to have blocked all routes to Mariupol as its forces continued to lay siege to the key port city in southern Ukraine.

Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev said all bridges to the city had been destroyed and all roads were laid with mines, the Kremlin-owned Tass news agency reported.

A Ukrainian official expressed doubt that that aid supplies would be able to reach Mariupol residents as the humanitarian crisis in the city deepened.

Mariupol is a significant strategic target for Russian occupation and its capture would grant Moscow complete control over the Ukraine coast in the Sea of Azov – securing a prized land route to Crimea.

The city of around 430,000 people is surrounded on all sides by Russian-captured land and has been subjected a brutal assault for more than 10 days.

The local council said 1,582 civilians had been killed in the city since the invasion began more than three weeks ago.

“We will never forgive or forget this crime against humanity,” the council said.

Russian shelling of Mariupol continued relentlessly on Friday, officials said.

<p>An explosion is seen in an apartment building after Russian's army tank fires in Mariupol</p>

An explosion is seen in an apartment building after Russian’s army tank fires in Mariupol

Ukrainian interior ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko said the situation in Mariupol was critical and aid supplies may not reach residents of the city who have been without food, water or power for days.

Several attempts have been made to create safe evacuation routes to help civilians to leave the city but Ukraine said Russia had repeatedly thwarted plans by breaking ceasefire agreements.

Russia was accused of carrying out an airstrike on a maternity hospital in Mariupol on Wednesday that Ukrainian officials said killed three people including a six-year old and injured more than a dozen others, including pregnant women.

The Institute for the Study of War reported on Thursday that Russian forces claimed to have occupied disctricts of Mariupol near to major inroads.

<p>Institute for the Study of War data shows extent of Russian war in Ukraine </p>

Institute for the Study of War data shows extent of Russian war in Ukraine

Col Gen Mizintsez blamed Ukrainian forces for destroying and blocking the routes into Mariupol, Tass reported.

The Russian general claimed fighters from the Moscow-backed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) were trying to clear mines from the roads but had been slowed by shelling from Ukraine.

Mariupol sits a few miles west of the border of rebel-held Donetsk in the southeast of Ukraine.

Separatist forces have staged heavy assaults on the city since war broke out in the wider Donbas region in 2014.

<p>Russian tanks move on the outskirts of Mariupol on Friday</p>

Russian tanks move on the outskirts of Mariupol on Friday

As well as being built around a significant port, Mariupol has a strong industrial output with steel and iron production sites that attracted the rebels.

In the current invasion Mariupol stands in the way of Russian dominance of the Azov coast.

Capture of the industrial stronghold would provide Russia with a direct land route to the Crimean peninsula and land a damaging blow on Ukraine’s economy.

Though the main offensive continues on Kyiv to the north, Ukraine military officials said for the first time on Thursday that the southeast of the country was an operational priority.

<p>Police officer inspects a crater on the grounds of the Mariupol maternity hospital hit by an airstrike on Wednesday</p>

Police officer inspects a crater on the grounds of the Mariupol maternity hospital hit by an airstrike on Wednesday

Moscow said DPR forces had taken Volnovakha to the north of Mariupol.

In the wider country, Russian ground forces continue to make limited progress due to logistical issues and Ukrainian resistance, Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

However, Moscow will likely reposture its forces in the coming days for a renewed offensive that will probably include a move on Kyiv, the MoD said.

Satellite images showed a huge Russian convoy that had been mired outside Kyiv had fanned out into towns and forests.

The Russian military offensive took aim at western Ukraine for the first time on Friday with attacks on airports in Lutsk and Ivano-Frankiivsk that US defence officials said were aimed at preventing their use by Ukrainian forces.

In the central city of Dnipro, at least one person was killed in three air strikes, state emergency services said.

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Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition, click here. If you would like to donate, click here for our GoFundMe page.

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