By DoD News
By Jim Garamone
U.S. officials assess that Ukrainians are still contesting the strategic city of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine.
Russian forces have surrounded the city on the Sea of Azov, but Ukrainian military personnel are still fighting the invaders, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said.
Russian forces have heavily shelled the Ukrainian city, and news footage from Mariupol shows an area devastated by aerial and artillery fire. “But our assessment is that the Ukrainians are still fighting for it,” he said.
The city is in a strategic location just south of the Donbas area of Ukraine and has an excellent port on the Sea of Azov — an arm of the Black Sea. Mariupol would provide the Russians “unfettered and unhindered land access between the Donbas and Crimea,” Kirby said.
The Russians say the region is Russian, but the area “also has great significance to the Ukrainian people,” Kirby said. Mariupol is a key to Ukraine’s economic life.
Ukrainian allies and partners — including the United States — continue sending military equipment, supplies, food and more into Ukraine. Kirby would not talk about the way the Ukrainian forces are deployed as the Russians attack the eastern part of the nation.
“[Ukrainians] continue to fight bravely for their country,” Kirby said. “We continue to try to support their efforts to do that through truly an unprecedented level of speed, and that’s what we’re going to focus on.”