Invasion of Ukraine: the leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin, promises to turn Mariupol into a “seaside resort”

The leader of Russia-backed rebels in Ukraine has promised to turn the virtually destroyed city of Mariupol into a “seaside resort”.

Denis Pushilin, the rogue leader of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, made the far-fetched promise despite Ukrainian soldiers still holding out under the Azovstal steelworks.

“Russia is here forever, and you are finally home. Now this is the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic forever. No one will take it away from us,” he said during a visit to the occasion of Victory Day.

Camera iconSmoke rises from the Azovstal metallurgical combine in Mariupol during the shelling. Credit: Alexei Alexandrov/PA

A giant black and orange ribbon – a symbol used for the country’s celebrations marking the end of World War II – was carried through the city by troops.

“We have strength, we have opportunities, we have the support of the biggest and most beautiful country,” he said according to Russian news agency TASS.

Humanitarian efforts, led by the United Nations and the Red Cross, have been stepped up over the past week to evacuate the last civilians trapped in the sprawling Soviet-era steelworks.

Humanitarian efforts, led by the United Nations and the Red Cross, have been stepped up over the past week to evacuate the last civilians trapped in the sprawling Soviet-era steelworks.

Apparently, in reference to the city’s destroyed infrastructure and industry, he said the settlement could in future be turned into a “resort” to help bring back jobs and prosperity.

People carry a St. George banner marking the 77th anniversary of the end of World War II in Mariupol, territory under the government of the Donetsk People's Republic, eastern Ukraine, Monday, May 9, 2022 (AP Photo)
Camera iconPeople carry a St. George banner marking the 77th anniversary of the end of World War II in Mariupol, in the territory under the government of the Donetsk People’s Republic. Credit: A-Z/PA

“Now the main task is to liberate all our lands, to start rebuilding the cities,” he added.

At the same time, Kyiv has asked the UN Human Rights Council to look into the “continuing deterioration” of the situation across Ukraine, including Mariupol. Ukraine said Russian forces were carrying out “assault operations” on the Azovstal plant.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has already declared victory over the city, but control of the steel mill would be a symbolic achievement.

Putin publicly told the military not to storm to avoid the loss of Russian lives, but those orders were either ignored or privately rescinded, with raids underway in the underground tunnel network of the steelworks where Ukrainian fighters are resisting.

A stray dog ​​looks at a bus with local residents who left a shelter in the Azovstal metallurgical complex guarded by servicemen of the Russian army and the militia of the Donetsk People's Republic in Mariupol, in the territory under the government of the Donetsk People's Republic in eastern Ukraine, Friday, May 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov)
Camera iconA stray dog ​​watches a bus with local residents who left a shelter in the Azovstal metallurgical complex guarded by servicemen of the Russian army and the militia of the Donetsk People’s Republic in Mariupol. Credit: Alexei Alexandrov/PA

Viktoria Andreyeva, a 46-year-old history teacher, said: “There are still many people in Mariupol who want to leave but cannot.

Meanwhile, Russian missile strikes yesterday blasted the vital Black Sea port of Odessa, destroying a luxury beachfront hotel.

Three cruise missiles fired from warships hit the city during a surprise visit by European Council President Charles Michel, who had to break off talks with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and rush to a bomb shelter.

No staff or guests were staying at the now-destroyed Grand Pettine Hotel at the time, and no casualties were reported. It was the third day in a row that airstrikes hit the coastal city.