Russian forces are trying to create a blockade around the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, attacking rail links to prevent civilians evacuating, Mayor Vadym Boichenko said in a video broadcast on Thursday. He compared the blockade to a” Nazi siege of Leningrad in World War 2″. He said constant attacks over the past 24 hours have cut off water and power supply and the local authorities need a ceasefire to restore power.
BBC News anchor Maryam Moshiri said: “Mariupol, it’s a coastal town, it’s very much in focus right now.
“The Mayor of Mariupol said that the Russian troops have encircled the city and recreated a situation which he describes similar to the deadly Nazi siege of Leningrad in World War 2.
“He said that no electricity, food, water or heating and that citizens there have to deal with temperatures dropping to -2C.”
Nazi Germany’s siege of the then-Soviet city where about 1.5 million people died during two years of blockade.
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Mariupol city council said in a statement: “They are breaking food supplies, setting us up in a blockade, as in the old Leningrad.
“Deliberately, for seven days, they have been destroying the city’s critical life-support infrastructure. We have no light, water or heat again.”
The council said it was seeking to create a humanitarian corridor for the city, as well as trying to restore infrastructure.
“We are being destroyed as a nation. This is genocide of Ukrainian people,” it said.
It comes as Ukraine said it would call for humanitarian corridors for its besieged citizens at peace talks with Russia on Thursday, as war entered its second week with Ukrainian cities surrounded and under bombardment.
Hundreds of Russian soldiers and Ukrainian civilians have been killed since President Vladimir Putin sent his troops over the border on Feb. 24. Russia itself has been plunged into isolation never before experienced by an economy of such size.
The United Nations said more than 1 million refugees had fled in just seven days, one of the fastest exoduses in memory.
Ukrainian negotiator Davyd Arakhamia posted a picture on Facebook of himself preparing to board a helicopter for talks, which he said would start around 1400 GMT. He did not say where.
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“The minimum programme: humanitarian corridors,” he said.
Neither side has suggested it was expecting breakthroughs after a first round of talks held in Belarus on Monday led to no progress.
Despite an initial battle plan that Western countries said was aimed at swiftly toppling the Kyiv government it describes as dangerous nationalists who threaten its security, Russia has captured only one Ukrainian city so far – the southern Dnipro River port of Kherson, which its tanks entered on Wednesday.
With its main assault force halted for days on a highway north of Kyiv, Russia has shifted tactics, escalating its bombardment of major cities. Swathes of central Kharkiv, a city of 1.5 million people, have been blasted into rubble.