Why is Mariupol an important place for Russia in the invasion?
Russia continues to target Mariupol with air strikes in an attempt to capture the southern Ukrainian city. Why is Russia so interested in taking the city?
The coastal city of Mariupol in south eastern Ukraine is a strategic target for Russian forces. But why?
Mariupol is located in the Donetsk Oblast and became the capital of the region after the city of Donetsk was captured by Russian backed separatists. Nearly 450,000 people lived in the city known for its strong industrial economy before the invasion. For that reason, plus its access to the Black Sea, it is a primary target of Russian forces.
Mariupol had over fifty industrial sites, primary focused on the production of steel. As it is a coastal city it was also a trading hub that helped to boost the economy further. Russia is interested increasing its access to the sea, which is part of the reason, the country seized Crimea in 2014.
This is not the first time that Mariupol has been engulfed in violence over the last few years. There have been multiple attempts to capture the city by Russian back separatists during the Donbas War. The first was in January 2015, when fighters from the Donetsk People's Republic, launched an attack on the city. Ukrainian government forces were able to re-capture Mariupol, after it briefly fell to separatists in June 2015.
Mariupol experiencing a humanitarian crisis
When the invasion of Ukraine began, Mariupol was one of the first cities to come under siege because of its proximity to Russia. Attacks began on 25 February and have continued throughout the conflict.
Russian forces have attacked various civilian targets including a maternity and children's hospital and a local theater. These actions, which Russia has denied, have been widely condemned by foreign leaders, some going so far as to call them war crimes.
"To do this to a peaceful city, what the occupiers did, is a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come," said President Zelensky in response to the actions taken against Mariupol and its residents.
One of the main objectives of Ukraine in their diplomatic negotiations with Russia is the establishment of humanitarian corridors.
Those trapped in Mariupol are in desperate need of a way out of the city and for food, water, and other basic necessities to be able to come into the city.