Ukraine refuses Russia’s demand to surrender port city
By Andrew E. Kramer and Marc Santora
Ukraine rejected Russia’s demand that soldiers defending the embattled southern port of Mariupol surrender at dawn Monday, even as a powerful blast rocked the capital, Kyiv, and reduced a sprawling shopping mall to rubble.
After nearly a month of fighting, the war has reached a stalemate, with Russia turning to deadlier and blunter methods, including targeting civilians. A New York Times reporter saw six dead bodies at the mall in Kyiv covered in plastic as rescue workers battled fires and pulled more victims from the wreckage Monday morning.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, addressing the nation overnight, said a relief convoy in northeastern Ukraine near the city of Kharkiv had been hijacked by Russian forces. And efforts to reach hundreds of thousands of people trapped in Mariupol remained fraught with danger.
“The enemy desperately does not want civilians to break through,” Olena Zelenska, the president’s wife, said in a statement. “But they will. Please hold on, dear people, I beg you. I will repeat my husband’s words, ‘Ukraine doesn’t abandon her people.’”
Across eastern Ukraine, there were signs that Russia was seeking to consolidate control, including a drive to conscript men to fight in their war effort. At the same time, Ukrainian officials and witnesses said they were forcibly deporting people, including children. Oleg Nikolenko, spokesman for Ukraine’s foreign ministry, said in a statement that 2,389 children were taken from their parents in the Donbas region and sent to Russia on a single day, Saturday. The claim could not be independently confirmed.
In other major developments:
— President Joe Biden is making his biggest diplomatic push of the war. In a call with Western allies Monday, he assailed Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian civilians and discussed providing assistance to refugees. He will travel to Brussels on Wednesday to meet with NATO and European leaders, then head to Poland on Friday.
— The United States has said it opposes Poland’s proposal for a NATO peacekeeping mission.
— The deputy commander of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, Andrei Paliy, died in combat in Mariupol, according to the governor of Sevastopol, the Crimean city where the fleet is based. Paliy is one of several high-ranking Russian officers who have been killed in action in Ukraine.
— Zelenskyy called for renewed peace talks with Russia, despite few signs of progress after four days of negotiations last week.