Photo Courtesy: IANS

Kiev, March 21: Ukraine has rejected Russia’s offer to provide a safe passage for civilians to evacuate from Mariupol if Kiev surrendered the strategic port city, which has been one of the hardest hit since the invasion began 26 days ago, the media reported on Monday.

On Sunday, Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, Director of the Russian National Centre for Defence Management, laid out the country’s offer under which Ukraine had until 5 a.m. (Moscow time, about 7.30 A.M. IST) on Monday morning to accept the terms, the BBC reported.

Under the proposal, Russian troops would have opened safe corridors out of Mariupol from 10 a.m. (Moscow time), initially for Ukrainian troops and “foreign mercenaries” to disarm and leave the city.

After about two hours, Russian forces would have then allowed humanitarian convoys with food, medicine and other supplies to enter the city safely, once the de-mining of the roads was complete.

But, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk rejected the offer, saying her country would not stop defending the strategic port city where around 300,000 people are believed to be trapped with supplies running out.

“There can be no question of any surrender, laying down of arms,” she was as saying on Sunday night by Ukrayinska Pravda.

Since Russia began its invasion on February 24, the city has witnessed some of the most intense fighting in all of Ukraine.

According to the Mariupol City Council, Russians drop 50 to 100 bombs on the city every day, and as a result, 80-90 per cent of the buildings have been destroyed as a result, with irreparable damages.

The location of Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov, is strategic for Russia, as it would help it create a land corridor between the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, controlled by Russian-backed separatists, and Crimea, the peninsula it invaded and annexed in 2014, the BBC reported.

The authorities in Mariupol have said that at least 2,500 people have been killed in the city so far.

Source: IANS