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Ukraine’s southern port city of Mariupol has been razed to the ground as Russian forces make “desperate” attempts to finish taking the city “at any cost,” Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Sunday.
Kuleba appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation” and described how the situation in Mariupol is “dire militarily” and “heartbreaking” after seven weeks under siege at the hands of the Russian army.
“The city doesn’t exist anymore,” Kuleba said, adding that Ukrainian forces and a large group of civilians in the port city are encircled by Moscow’s forces. “They continue their struggle, but it seems from the way the Russian army behaves in Mariupol, they decided to raze the city to the ground at any cost.”
Kuleba said he expects the war to continue in the coming weeks, with heavy fighting and a large-scale Russian offensive in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.
He also said he expects missile attacks to continue in Kyiv and other cities in Ukraine, along with the “desperate attempts of the Russian forces to finish with Mariupol at any cost.”
The relentless bombardment and street fighting in Mariupol have left much of the city in rubble and killed at least 21,000 people, by the Ukrainians’ estimate. A maternity hospital was hit by a lethal Russian airstrike in the opening weeks of the war, and about 300 people were reported killed in the bombing of a theater where civilians were taking shelter.
The siege of Mariupol has left an estimated 100,000 citizens, who remain out of a prewar population of 450,000, trapped without food, water, heat or electricity.
The Russian military estimated that 2,500 Ukrainian fighters were holding out at a hulking steel plant with a warren of underground passageways in the last pocket of resistance in Mariupol.
While Moscow set a midday surrender-or-die deadline for Mariupol on Sunday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Ukrainian journalists that the fall of Mariupol could end any attempt at a negotiated peace.
“The destruction of all our guys in Mariupol – what they are doing now – can put an end to any format of negotiations,” Zelenskyy said.
Kuleba confirmed Sunday that while an expert-level negotiating team is in contact with Moscow, “no high-level talks are taking place” at the foreign ministry level.