LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials have defiantly rejected a Russian demand that their forces in Mariupol lay down arms and raise white flags in exchange for safe passage.
Russian troops have surrounded and are barraging the strategic southern port city.
Russian Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev said Sunday that all Ukrainian soldiers could leave the Azov Sea port Monday using safe routes for evacuating civilians that had been previously agreed with Ukraine and head to areas controlled by the Ukrainian authorities. He said that “all those who lay down arms will be guaranteed a safe exit from Mariupol.”
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk declined the offer.
“There can be no talk of any surrender, laying down of arms. We have already informed the Russian side about this,” she told the news outlet Ukrainian Pravda, according to The Associated Press. “I wrote: `Instead of wasting time on eight pages of letters, just open the corridor.’”
Ukrainian officials say the Russian military hit an art school sheltering some 400 people only hours before offering to open two corridors out of Mariupol in return for the capitulation of its defenders.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy denounced the school bombing in a video address early Monday.
“They are under the rubble, and we don’t know how many of them have survived,” he said. “But we know that we will certainly shoot down the pilot who dropped that bomb, like about 100 other such mass murderers whom we already have downed.”
Ukrainian authorities also said Russia shelled a chemical plant in northeastern Ukraine, sending toxic ammonia leaking into the air, and hit a military training base in the west with cruise missiles.
Zelenskyy, who spoke to members of the Israeli parliament via video link on Sunday, thanked Israel for its efforts to broker talks with Russia. He praised Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for trying to help “find a negotiation track with Russia … so that we sooner or later start talking with Russia, possibly in Jerusalem.”
“It would be the right place to find peace if possible,” he added.
The Ukrainian president also said that he had a call Sunday with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a “true friend of Ukraine,” to discuss support for Ukraine during this week’s summit of the Group of Seven and NATO.
Zelenskyy said 7,295 Ukrainians were evacuated from zones of combat on Sunday, including nearly 4,000 from Mariupol. He also hailed people in the southern city of Kherson for taking to the streets Sunday to protest the Russian occupation, showing “Ukrainian courage, armless against the occupiers.”
In other areas, the Russian offensive has floundered to the point where Western governments and analysts see the broader conflict grinding into a war of attrition.