More than 1,000 Ukrainian troops have surrendered in the besieged Ukrainian port of Mariupol, according to the Defense Ministry.
Russian television showed pictures of what it said were marines giving themselves up
Many of the marines were wounded and one was holding up a Ukrainian passport
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry spokesman said he had no information about any surrender
In a statement released on Tuesday, local time, the Russian Defense Ministry said “1,026 Ukrainian soldiers of the 36th Marine Brigade voluntarily laid down arms and surrendered”.
If the Russians seize the Azovstal industrial district – where other Ukrainian troops have been holed up – they would be in full control of Mariupol, the linchpin between Russian-held areas to the west and east that is providing a land corridor for troops and supplies.
Then it would be the first major city to fall to Russian forces since they invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Ukraine’s general staff said Russian forces were proceeding with attacks on Azovstal and on the port.
Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said he had no information about the claim, and there was no immediate comment from the Ukrainian President’s office nor the Ukrainian general staff.
On Monday, a post on the Ukrainian marine brigade’s Facebook page said the unit was preparing for a final battle in Mariupol that would end in death or capture as its troops had run out of ammunition.
“Today will probably be the ultimate battle, as there is no ammo left,” the post said.
“Beyond that: hand-to-hand fighting. Beyond that, for some death, for others capture.”
Some Ukrainian officials said at the time that the post may have been fake, and that troops were still holding out.
The Russian Defense Ministry said 151 wounded Ukrainian troops were treated at the spot and taken to Mariupol’s city hospital.
Thousands of people are believed to have been killed under a near-seven week siege of Mariupol and Russia has been massing thousands of troops in the area for a new assault, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.
Ukraine says tens of thousands of civilians have been trapped inside that city, with no way to bring in food or water, and he has accused Russia of blocking aid convoys.
Earlier, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov – an ardent supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin – urged remaining Ukrainians holed up in Azovstal to surrender.
“Within Azovstal at the moment, there are about 200 wounded who cannot receive any medical assistance,” Mr Kadyrov said in a Telegram post.
“For them, and all the rest, it would be better to end this pointless resistance and go home to their families.”
Russian television showed pictures of what it said were marines giving themselves up at Illich Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol on Tuesday, many of them wounded.
It showed what it said were Ukrainian soldiers being marched down a road with their hands in the air.
One of the soldiers was shown holding a Ukrainian passport.
Accusations of genocide
Earlier, US President Joe Biden said for the first time that Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine amounted to genocide, as Mr Putin said Russia would “rhythmically and calmly” continue its operation and achieve its goals.
Russia has denied targeting civilians and has said Ukrainian and Western allegations of war crimes are fabricated.
Many towns Russia has retreated from in northern Ukraine were littered with the bodies of civilians killed in what Kyiv says was a campaign of murder, torture and rape.
Interfax Ukraine news agency on Wednesday quoted the Kyiv district police chief saying 720 bodies had been found in the region around the capital, with more than 200 people missing.
The General Headquarters of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said Russian forces were maintaining attacks on civilian infrastructure in the Kharkiv region in the north-east and the Zaporizhzhia region in central Ukraine.
At least seven people were killed and 22 wounded in Kharkiv over the past 24 hours, Governor Oleh Synegubov said.
A two-year-old boy was among those killed in the 53rd artillery or rocket strikes Russian forces had carried out in the region, he said in an online post.
Reuters could not independently verify the information.
‘Special military operation’ sees 4.6 million flee
Moscow’s incursion into Ukraine, the biggest attack on a European state since 1945, has seen more than 4.6 million people flee abroad, and killed or wounded thousands more, leaving Russia increasingly isolated on the world stage.
The Ukrainian Prosecutor-General’s office said 191 children had been killed and 349 wounded since the start of the invasion.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin says it has launched a “special military operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” Ukraine.
Kyiv and its Western allies reject that as a false pretext for an unprovoked attack.
The assault on the industrial heartland of Donbas sets the stage for a protracted battle that is certain to inflict heavy losses on both sides and will ultimately define the course of the war, analysts said.