5.9k Share this

Putin hopes to claim Mariupol as key prop in Victory Day celebrations

As large-scale propaganda campaign gets underway, fighting continues in the Azovstal steelworks

A Russian tank on the streets of Mariupol. Over 90% of the city is said to have been damaged during the assault by Russian forces.

As Victory Day, 9 May, approaches in Russia, Vladimir Putin has yet to win any prize in two months of war in Ukraine that can be shown off to the Russian people.

But one could be close: the industrial port city of Mariupol, on the shores of the Azov Sea. Severely damaged in the Russian onslaught, it may now serve as a key prop in the festivities of the coming weeks. Kremlin officials and propagandists have flocked to the town before the holiday, as local cleaning crews are clearing rubble and patriotic statues to Russia are being erected.

Fighting is reportedly still raging in the Azovstal plant in Mariupol’s industrial zone, which Putin had previously ordered his military chief to block up so that “not even a fly can get through.” Despite his orders for a siege, Ukrainian soldiers say Russia is making a final push to enter the steelworks and subdue the city’s final defenders just days before Victory Day.

Ukrainian intelligence has claimed that Russia is planning to hold part of its key Victory Day parade in the city. “Mariupol, according to [Russia’s] plans, should become the centre of ‘celebrations’,” Ukraine’s defence intelligence agency said in a statement. “For this purpose, the city is urgently cleaning the central streets from rubble, bodies of dead and unexploded Russian ammunition.

“A large-scale propaganda campaign continues, during which Russians will be shown stories about the ‘joy’ of local residents from meeting with the invaders,” the intelligence agency continued, noting a recent visit by the Russian state television host Vladimir Solovyov to the city alongside officials. He was pictured wearing local army camouflage and later displayed part of a British anti-tank missile launcher that he had brought back to Moscow with him.

Mariupol is a city that few Russians would have imagined as a prize before the war, home to a leading iron and steelworks that played an important role in the city’s economy but also fuelled local pollution. Nonetheless, it was a vibrant port with an active civil society that had withstood the Russian-backed advance in 2014, when Russian artillery came close enough to Mariupol to bombard the city’s outer districts, before being driven back.

The Kremlin could be keen to take the city as a strategic point in its goals to build a “land bridge” to Crimea, to gain access to another deep-water port that it used to transport coal, steel and grain, and as a symbolic victory, the largest city yet taken by Russia, which has failed to conquer Kharkiv or Kyiv.

And in an extraordinary visit this week, the presidential aide Sergey Kiriyenko, widely seen as Putin’s curator for Russian domestic politics, went to the city this week as part of what are seen as preparations for Russia to absorb the area as part of what has clearly been a war of conquest.

The visit chimed with reports that parts of east and southern Ukraine have entered the portfolio of the Kremlin’s domestic politics tsar, and served as confirmation, in the words of a local Russian-affiliated official, for “those who want to see proof that Russia has returned here”.

But that victory, if it arrives, will have come at a terrible cost. More than 90% of the city has been damaged, its mayor has said, and even Russian television has shown the extent of the devastation, though blaming it on Ukraine rather than its own artillery’s bombardment.

An Associated Press investigation on Thursday reported that more than 600 people may have been killed in a strike against the Mariupol drama theatre in March, where women and children had been sheltering from artillery bombardments.

In one video, Chechen fighters were seen celebrating the success of their operation to “destroy and cleanse Mariupol” while standing in front of a burning building in the city centre.

Sign up to First Edition, our free daily newsletter – every weekday morning at 7am BST

Kiriyenko, in his remarks, denied that a parade would take place in cities like Donetsk and Luhansk.

“So far it’s impossible to hold the Immortal Regiment or the Victory Parade in Donetsk or Luhansk, but that time will come, and will come soon,” he said. “And Victory Day parades will pass along all the streets of the cities of Donbas, and the Immortal Regiment will pass through all the streets of the cities of Donbas.”

But he did not directly address the question of whether a parade could take place in Mariupol instead.

Topics

Source: This post first appeared on The Guardian

5.9k Share this
You May Also Like

Body positive influencer reveals she was blasted for posting a ‘nice photo’ that was ‘off-brand’

A body positive influencer, who is well-known for sharing ‘unflattering’ images with her…

Govt to ‘Put Our Arms Around the People as We Did During Covid’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that the state will “put our…

Liz Cheney calls Trump a ‘threat’ to the country and tells Americans to stand up to ‘liars’

Rep. Liz Cheney was honored on Sunday night at this year’s John F.…

Half-Million Migrants Cross Border in Ten Weeks

More than a half-million migrants illegally crossed the southwest border with Mexico…

Anger of the jilted mother whose partner ran off with the Ukrainian refugee they let live with them 

A jilted mother-of-three whose partner ran off with a Ukrainian refugee has…

Maryland man pretended to be a police officer for 15 YEARS with fake badge and trained ‘bite dog

A career criminal was indicted for impersonating a police officer this month…

Chinese Catholics Call for Release of Illegally Detained Bishop

ROME — May 21 marks the one-year anniversary of the illegal arrest…

United Airlines worker PUNCHES passenger at check-in before he’s smacked to the ground bleeding

RAAAAGE! Insane moment United Airlines worker punches passenger at airport check-in before…