On this past Sunday, The Russian Defense Ministry issued an ultimatum to the Ukrainian garrison that is defending Mariupol.
“Lay down your arms,” Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, the director of the Russian National Center for Defense Management, was quoted saying in an informational meeting distributed by the defense ministry.
“A terrible humanitarian catastrophe has developed,” Mizintsev stated. “All who lay down their arms are guaranteed safe passage out of Mariupol.”
The deadline for submission is 5 a.m. on Monday morning, Moscow time, or 10 p.m. Sunday Eastern Daylight Time.
When there were two hours until the deadline, the people who defended Mariupol refused to comply with the request. This set an example for what would be the most massive city-wide siege since the history of World War II.
Mariupol has been in a state of constant suffocation since March 2nd.
The battle for Mariupol has been a case of Russia returning to its old ways. Even with a hundred thousand civilians living in the city, the Russians have relied on indiscriminate bombardment and shelling, which includes those “evacuation routes” ostensibly guaranteed by the Russians to be secure for civilians who are leaving the city.
In the last week, a more alarming event has transpired. Russian soldiers, who are likely part of Rosgvardiya, or also known as the National Guard of Russia, have been arresting citizens in Mariupol and sending them off to Russia,
“Over the past week, several thousand Mariupol residents have been taken to Russian territory,” the city claimed in the statement. “The occupiers illegally took people from the Livoberezhny district and from the shelter in the sports club building, where more than a thousand people (mostly women and children) were hiding from the constant bombing.”
The captured Mariupol residents were sent to camps in which Russian security forces inspected their phones and papers and then sent some to remote cities in Russia. In addition, the report said what happened to the “fate of the others is unknown.”
“What the occupiers are doing today is familiar to the older generation, who saw the horrific events of World War II, when the Nazis forcibly captured people,” Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko stated. “It is hard to imagine that in the 21st century people can be forcibly taken to another country.”
In light of the previous conduct of the Russian Army and the statements made by its leaders, it is not a good idea to trust the Russians in their promise of secure travel. At best, those who defend could be incarcerated in a Gulag that is over the Arctic Circle; at worst they'll be executed following a brief court martial.
The most important question is whether Russia's Russian Army can make the threat stick. Inviting defenders to surrender by threatening them with death is not a good strategy. There's nothing during the conflict in Ukraine which suggests that the Russians are skilled or motivated to carry out their threat. If they fail to do so through traditional means, we're likely to be witnessing the Russians increase their use of chemical weapons in order to achieve the full terror effect.