Mariupol capture could be ‘a crucial turning point’ for Ukraine-Russia conflict
US, NATO continue to fan the flames, affecting EU’s long-term security framework: experts
Published: Apr 17, 2022 08:46 PM Updated: Apr 18, 2022 10:09 AM
People pass by damaged buildings in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 23, 2022.(Photo: Xinhua)

People pass by damaged buildings in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 23, 2022.(Photo: Xinhua)

As Russian claimed that its troops had cleared the urban area of Mariupol, the strategically important port city in southeastern Ukraine, setting a deadline for Ukraine troops in the city to surrender, some experts considered that the battle could be seen as a crucial turning point for the Ukraine-Russia conflict that would have last for two months.

Taking Mariupol will help lay the foundation for Russia's next phased military operations in the Donbass and taking the port city could create a land corridor from Lugansk to Donetsk to Crimea. The US and NATO's continuous shipments of weapons to Ukraine would only lead to unpredictable consequences, prolonging the Russia-Ukraine conflict and fanning the flames, which will also affect the European security framework in a long run, experts warned.

 Russia gave holdout Ukrainian soldiers an ultimatum on Sunday to lay down their arms in Mariupol, which Moscow said its forces had nearly completely controlled in what would be its biggest capture of the conflict that last nearly two months, Reuters reported. 

Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson Major-General Igor Konashenkov said on Saturday that the Ukrainian port city had been completely retaken from Azov militants, foreign mercenaries and Ukrainian troops, and the remaining part of the Ukrainian grouping is encircled on the premises of the Azovstal iron and steel works [one of Europe's biggest metallurgical plants], the TASS said. Mariupol is a strategic city on the Sea of Azov that Russia has been targeting since the conflict began, as taking the city would help create a land corridor from Luhansk to Donetsk and down to Crimea, according to some analysis.

This land corridor, for Moscow, would secure control of the Ukrainian coast on the Sea of Azov and help smooth the supplies by sea. 

"Taking Mariupol will help lay the foundation for the next military operation in the Donbass as various signs showed now that with the military support by the US-led West, Ukraine is going to launch a meaningful military operation in the Donbass in which Russia can't lose," a Beijing-based geopolitical affairs expert, who preferred not to be identified, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

The next phase of Russia's military campaign in Ukraine could begin in the next few days, NBC News said on Saturday, citing two senior US defense officials, and Ukraine is rapidly running through artillery and artillery rounds. At the time, US officials assessed the Russians intended to regroup and then began  another military operation, focusing on the Donbass region and southeastern Ukraine, the media report said. 

The first strategic significance of the Russian occupation of Mariupol is to consolidate the gains of the Crimea conflict in 2014 while restoring Russia's strategic control of the Black Sea area, Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

Taking the port is also strategically important to deter Sweden and Finland, which have also proposed joining NATO.Russia recently said that a nuclear-free Baltic region would no longer be possible if Finland and Sweden become NATO members, alluding to additional nuclear deployments in Europe, CNBC said, as the two countries said their decision on whether to apply for NATO membership would come within a matter of weeks.

"The Ukrainian side will have a new understanding and judgment on the overall situation after Russia takes Mariupol, as the takeover of the port city is not just symbolic, but substantive, in reawakening the Ukrainian government to the urgency of the situation and avoiding a misjudgment of Russian army's power," Wang said. 

The remaining part of the Ukrainian grouping in Mariupol has been fully encircled on the premises of the Azovstal iron and steel works the Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson said. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned on Saturday that negotiations would end if Russian troops kill the remaining forces.

While the Russia-Ukraine conflict is not easing, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told European allies that the US believes the Russian military operations in Ukraine could last through the end of 2022, the CNN said on Friday. At the same time, the US, along with the NATO, ramped up shipments of the "most sensitive" weapons systems to Ukraine, pushing the crisis into unpredictable territory. 

The reason behind the continue supply of weapons to Ukraine by the US and NATO is that the US does not want the conflict to end soon, as it just wants the fighting to continue so that it could continue imposing sanctions on Russia to drag Russia down and bring Russian President Vladimir Putin down, Wang noted. 

"The US is also taking this opportunity to bring down Europe's so-called autonomy and independence and undermine the strategic trust between China and Russia. With all the problems in the domestic US affairs, it has to keep deflecting attention and creating wars to make momentum for the midterm elections," he said.