The Armed Forces of Ukraine will liberate Mariupol from Russian occupation as early as this year, said Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valeriy Zaluzhny. A fragment of an interview with the general is given in the documentary film “The Year” by journalist Dmitry Komarov, timed to coincide with the anniversary of the Russian invasion.
Zaluzhny spoke about his dialogue with children, which took place on the eve of St. Nicholas Day on December 17th. “The boy – Ilya, I think his name was, maybe four years old – takes me by the hand, takes me away and says: “Will we definitely return to Mariupol?” I say yes”. He asks: “When?” “And this year,” the general shared, adding that he was inspired by such stories.
Mariupol, located in southeastern Ukraine, became one of Russia’s main targets at the start of the war. The city has been in complete encirclement since March. Kyiv compared the situation in Mariupol with the blockade of Leningrad during World War II. Despite this, Russian troops met with fierce resistance.
The process of conquering the city was slow and bloody. The last frontier of Ukrainian defense was the Azovstal plant. Russia announced the complete capture of the city on 21 April. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu personally reported this to President Vladimir Putin. However, the fighting continued until 17 May. The captured members of the Azov Battalion were subsequently released as part of a prisoner exchange with Russia.
A few days ago, on February 23, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the defense of Mariupol was an example of “tremendous courage.” “Because there were different people there: military, civilians, journalists, photographers. Many of them died. Some were injured and survived. But they all gave a common signal: you will never defeat us, ”he stressed.
Zelensky called the defense of Mariupol “a very important historical moment” and added that the authorities support the survivors who were released from Russian captivity. “There are a lot of guys, men and women. And many more still remain in the occupied territories or in Russia. But we, of course, will take them back to Ukraine. They will never forget. And we will never forget,” Zelensky concluded.
Ukraine plans to launch a counteroffensive in the spring. In mid-December, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valery Zaluzhny said that he needed 300 tanks, 700 infantry fighting vehicles and 500 howitzers in order to “reach the lines on February 23, 2022.”