Moscow makes claim as leaders of four countries bordering Russia arrive in Kyiv in show of support for Ukraine
More than 1,000 Ukrainian marines defending the besieged city of Mariupol have surrendered and the port has been captured, Moscow has said, as the presidents of four countries bordering Russia arrived in Kyiv in a show of support for Ukraine.
In one of the most critical battles of the war, Russia’s defence ministry said that on Wednesday 1,026 soldiers from Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade, including 162 officers, had “voluntarily laid down their arms” near the city’s Ilyich iron and steelworks.
It later said Mariupol’s “trade sea port” was under full control of Russian forces.
There was no independent confirmation of the claims. Ukraine’s defence ministry said it had no information about the surrender and the Ukrainian military command said only that Russian forces were attacking the Azovstal industrial area and the port.
The Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, who says his forces are playing a major role in the battle, urged the last Ukrainians holed up in Azovstal to surrender. The 26th Marine Brigade had said on Monday that it was preparing for a final battle in Mariupol.
The city, the main target yet to be brought under Russian control in the eastern Donbas region, has been encircled and largely reduced to rubble during Moscow’s seven-week invasion. The city’s mayor has said 21,000 civilians have died and more than 100,000 remain there awaiting evacuation.
Its capture would be the first fall of a major Ukrainian city and would help Russia secure a land passage between the self-proclaimed republics in Donetsk and Luhansk in Donbas and Crimea, which Moscow occupied and annexed in 2014.
Joe Biden announced $800m in new US military aid to Ukraine on Wednesday. He said this would include artillery, armoured personnel carriers and helicopters. Biden added it would “contain many of the highly effective weapons systems we have already provided and new capabilities tailored to the wider assault we expect Russia to launch in eastern Ukraine”.
The Polish and Baltic presidents headed to the Ukrainian capital by train on Wednesday to show support for the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and his embattled troops in what the Polish presidential adviser Jakub Kumoch called “this decisive moment for the country”.
The Polish president, Andrzej Duda, Estonia’s Alar Karis, Gitanas Nausėda of Lithuania and Latvia’s Egils Levits met in the Polish city of Rzeszów near the Ukrainian border. “Heading to Kyiv with a strong message of political support and military assistance,” Nausėda tweeted from the station.
The programme of the visit by the leaders of four Nato member states – who fear they may face Russian attacks if Ukraine falls – was not disclosed for security reasons but local media reported that the heads of state visited Borodianka, near Kyiv.
He said it was “hard to believe that such war atrocities could be perpetrated in 21st-century Europe, but that is the reality. This is a war we must win.”
It came as Ukrainian forces claimed to have damaged a Russian warship carrying 510 crew in the Black Sea with missile strikes on Wednesday. “Neptune missiles guarding the Black Sea caused very serious damage to the Russian ship,” Maksym Marchenko, the governor of Odessa, wrote on Telegram.
The visit followed Kyiv’s reported refusal to meet the German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who visited Poland on Tuesday and said he had planned to go on to Ukraine but “was not wanted”. The former foreign minister is facing heavy criticism for his past policy of rapprochement towards Moscow.
On Wednesday, the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, said it was “confusing” that Steinmeier had not been received in Kyiv. Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany said the government would be glad to welcome Scholz, but diplomats said the snub to Steinmeier may make that more difficult.
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, declined on Wednesday to repeat Biden’s accusation that Russia was carrying out “genocide” against Ukrainians, warning that verbal escalations would not help end the war.