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What are the geopolitical, military and humanitarian objectives that will be achieved following a successful siege of the civilian population of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol by the Russian military that invaded Ukraine?

Consider also that civilian citizens of Ukraine are not allowed by Putin's forces to leave Mariupol to go to their home country of Ukraine, which essentially traps them with little access to food, water and medicine from the outside.

Note: I have read this post, but it is asking a very different question: Why would countries attack civilian facilities like hospitals during war?

REFERENCES:

Siege of Mariupol
After a Week of Siege, Bloodied Mariupol Plans Mass Graves
Photos: Mariupol residents suffer as Russian forces lay siege
Siege of Mariupol: Fresh Russian attacks throw evacuation into chaos


Answers with references and sources are welcome below. Pure opinions, speculations, and rants are not welcome as per the Help center.

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    references and sources? I am sure many "sources" claim they know the reason for this siege. The only people who know the real reasons are the Putin and the Russian military and they aren't going to tell us. In fact you can't even know their claimed reasons for this siege as it probably does not exist in their official narrative, much like the whole war is a "very limited one", again in the official Russian narrative. Mar 12 at 0:05
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    As speculation? You can look to Aleppo and try to understand their motivations. But allowing civilians to evacuate would probably have much the same results minus a lot of deaths. The difference might be an unwillingness to leave men of fighting age get out. But even then they could evacuate women, children and old people. So anyone can guess - I don't see this question as answerable. Mar 12 at 0:06
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica well, there was a purpose and plan to Aleppo. It achieved its goals 100%. Could you expand your comment into an answer, perhaps? Thank you! Mar 12 at 2:08
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    @TimurShtatland I don't think I can answer what I perceive to be the question, which is why is Russia besieging Mariupol in this particular fashion (not letting any civilians out and starving them). It seems to have limited military benefit and a whole lot of ethics (and PR) downsides. ohwilleke's answer seems as to why they'd wanna take over the city in general. But not necessarily as why they are using this specific method, which to me, is the real question. Which I can't answer and doubt anyone here can do without speculating. So, VTC, my apologies for doing so. Mar 12 at 5:12
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    @TimurShtatland I do not think the reasoning was limited to that, nor do I know the rest of the reasoning. At least, the goal of "denazification" was declared and they had to start somewhere, so that should be in the answer somewhere if not the whole answer, which I do not feel competent to provide. Mar 21 at 12:02

4 Answers 4

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What is the purpose of the siege the Ukrainian city of Mariupol by the Russian invaders?

It is less about the siege itself and more about moving past the siege and taking Mariupol. The siege is a means to an end - taking it either by siege making it miserable enough for the population and its defenders to give up or to siege it to destruction in which case they can just roll in on whats left and take it.

In every case Mariupol sits geographically in between Russias (and DPRs) thrusts east from DPR and west from Crimea. It must be taken to close this gap, creating a land bridge (thereby connecting Crimea with the industrial centres in DPR with the port at Mariupol for export).

The secondary result would be that if the siege is successful and there enough civilians left, they can claim to liberate it and bring aid to those left, claiming that they are bringing aid that Ukraine did not, that Ukraine left them to starve whilst Russia is bringing humanitarian relief that Ukraine denied them - a sort of hollow secondary PR objective, more for its audience at home than anyone else.

enter image description here

The all important land bridge (here identified in 2015).

https://www.csis.org/analysis/russias-possible-invasion-ukraine

an invasion would mark a significant change in international politics, creating a new “Iron Curtain” that begins along Russia’s borders with Finland and the Baltic states and moves south through Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central and South Asia, and finally to East Asia along China’s southern flank.

if Russia decides to invade Ukraine to reassert Russian control and influence, possible axes of advance to seize Ukrainian territory: a southern thrust advancing across the Perekop isthmus

The West’s appeasement of Moscow when it annexed Crimea in 2014 and then orchestrated an insurgency in Eastern Ukraine only emboldened Russian leaders. In addition, Russian annexation of some or all of Ukraine would increase Russian manpower, industrial capacity, and natural resources to a level that could make it a global threat.

the demand for an exclusive sphere of influence in Eastern Europe and the south Caucasus is to meet Russian security interests. The Kremlin has portrayed NATO expansion to the east as the original sin of post-Soviet international relations with the West that now must be rectified.

Russian Military Option

Seize Ukrainian territory up to the Dnepr River and seize an additional belt of land (to include Odessa) that connects Russian territory with the breakaway Transdniestria Republic and separates Ukraine from any access to the Black Sea. The Kremlin would incorporate these new lands into Russia and ensure that the rump Ukrainian statelet remains economically unviable.

Seize ..a belt of land between Russia and Transdniestria (including Mariupol, Kherson, and Odessa) to secure freshwater supplies for Crimea and block Ukraine’s access to the sea

By taking this route Russia could achieve another goal—the destruction of an independent Ukraine—whose evolution toward a liberal democratic state has become a major source of contention among the Kremlin’s security elites.

Russia could take Kherson and the source of freshwater for Crimea and simultaneously toward the vicinity of Melitopol to link up with Russian forces advancing along the coast of the Sea of Azov. An attack coupled with the assault along the coastline toward Mariupol and Berdyansk.

If Russia intends to conquer the entire country, its forces would need to seize Odessa (whose port facilities would ease Russian logistics) and also cross the Dnepr River at several points to march and fight an additional 350 to 700 miles further west to occupy all of Ukraine up to its borders with Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova.

invasion map

assault along the coastline toward Mariupol

Ukraine conflict: The strategic importance of Mariupol

It became a de-facto regional centre in 2014, when Donetsk became the capital of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic.

Mariupol is located 10 km from the areas controlled by pro-Russian separatists and its geographic position makes it strategically important, as taking the city would enable the creation of a land corridor from Luhansk to Donetsk and down to Crimea. For Moscow, the land corridor would secure control of the Ukrainian coast on the Sea of Azov.

Mariupol is also the biggest port in Azov Sea region. The port's deep berths make it particularly attractive for maritime transportation. Other ports in the region, including those in the Russian cities of Azov, Primorsko-Akhtarsk, Rostov-on-Don, Taganrog, and Yeysk, have limited berth capacity. Controlling a port with this capacity would noticeably improve the maritime transportation time and logistics throughput between Russia, Donbas, and Crimea.

Mariupol is also an important industrial centre, where the key metallurgical enterprises are situated. Steel and iron production are strategically important for Ukraine. Moscow understands that taking the city and controlling the main port as well as important industries will put economic pressure on Ukraine's government.

Mariupol is crucially important for Ukrainian military operations along the former line of contact – the front line between Ukrainian forces and separatist militias prior to the invasion. If the city is captured, the Ukrainian forces currently located there will face either logistic isolation and/or encirclement. For Moscow it would mean being able to unite the Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine with its troops in Crimea.

https://www.janes.com/defence-news/news-detail/ukraine-conflict-the-strategic-importance-of-mariupol

From 2015:

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2015/03/19/the-mariupol-line-russias-land-bridge-to-crimea/

Mariupol must be a tempting target for the leaderships of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk ‘people’s republics’. If they do not intend to implement Minsk II, seizing Mariupol would be an important step to make a frozen separatist-occupied Donbas economically viable. Mariupol is the port through which much of the steel and other industrial products of the Donbas are exported.

Mariupol is also key if the Russians desire a land bridge to Crimea. While taking the land bridge would be doable for the Russian army, holding it would prove costly. It would mean occupying a strip of territory 300 kilometers long, territory that has not shown great sympathy for the separatists or the idea of ‘Novorossiya.’ The Russian army would have to garrison the territory to fend off almost certain partisan attacks.

(In 2015) ..Mariupol has assumed importance as a key indicator of how far the Russians want to go in Ukraine. If they make the wrong choice, the conflict will rage again, the West will react with new sanctions and greater support for Kyiv, and West-Russia relations will plunge to an even lower point.

enter image description here

March 2022:

https://edition.cnn.com/europe/live-news/ukraine-russia-putin-news-03-14-22/h_3cc13b65ffb3165bb7592bd102320

A land corridor has been established between Crimea and Donbas, according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

According to RIA, the corridor provides a strategic route connecting Crimea to Mariupol, which is currently surrounded by Russian and Russian-backed separatist troops.

The land corridor would allow troops in Crimea to join forces with Russian-backed rebels in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), as well as giving Russian-backed forces access to key port cities along the Sea of Azov.

The RIA report also called it an "important route" for connecting Crimea to the steel-making capital Mariupol and the industrial Donbas region.

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    Good answer. More specific than mine.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 14 at 20:32
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Vladimir Putin seeks to take control of Ukraine and overthrow its democratically elected government.

(BBC)

More specifically, with respect to this particular city:

Russia-backed forces have allegedly seized several neighborhoods in Mariupol amid an ongoing operation to "liberate" the southeastern Ukrainian port city.

"The operation to liberate the city of Mariupol of nationalists has been continuing," Russian Ministry of Defense spokesman Igor Konashenkov said at a press briefing. "Donetsk People's Republic militia units have taken control of the neighborhoods of Azovsky, Naidenivka, Lyapyne, and Vynohradar and approached the Azovstal plant. The western neighborhood in the western part of the city has been liberated."

The self-declared Donetsk People's Republic is one of two Russia-controlled separatist areas in eastern Ukraine's Donbas region.

(ABC, March 10, 2022 10:59 a.m. update,emphasis added)

The "liberation" language refers to the counterfactual Russian position that Ukraine is controlled by a Nazi regime, causing Russia to attempt to secure regime change. (Wall Street Journal pay per view).

Putin justified the attack as “a special military operation” to protect people, including Russian citizens who had been subjected to “genocide” in Ukraine, an accusation the West has long described as absurd propaganda.

“And for this, we will strive for the demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine,” Putin said. “Russia cannot feel safe, develop, and exist with a constant threat emanating from the territory of modern Ukraine.”

(Aljazeera)

In other words, Russia is seeking to use military force to gain control of all of the territory and people of Ukraine, in order to secure regime change in Ukraine. Mariupol is within the territory of Ukraine and has people, therefore, conquering it is part of its objective.

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    All these questions and answers are pointless. In every war(NATO, Russia, China), it is basically the same copy paste text with names replaced. When Nato attacks Libia it is to free the populace from a dictator who does genocide. If Russia does the same it is overthrowing a democratic gov. The west has so much hypocracy it's insane. As the saying goes, one mans freedom fighters are another mans terrorists. If you are not invovled in a military or secret service you have no way to know what is going on and what is the truth or what is war propaganda. Same applies for the west and the east.
    – Hakaishin
    Mar 12 at 10:56
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    @Hakaishin As one man to another, could you please point me to the freedom fighters & terrorists in the Russian attack on the maternity hospital in Mariupol? You mentioned: "As the saying goes, one mans freedom fighters are another mans terrorists", but I am confused specifically about pregnant women, newborns, doctors & nurses. Also, could you please use English, if you are able to? E.g.,, it's "NATO", not "Nato", "Lybia", not "Libia", etc. Let me know if you need help editing your texts. I am here to help and engage in productive, polite, & grammatically correct discussions. Mar 12 at 13:24
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    @Hakaishin alright. Let's grant you/assume that one regime change looks much like another, whatever the justifications given. But let's also not play games here - you know the context of this question and its allegations, with regards to Mariupol. Evacuations blocked, civilians starved, indiscriminate heavy shelling of civilian areas. Let's add Grozny. Add the use of chemical weapons in Syria. What are the equivalent actions from NATO in the last 40 years involving deliberate mass targeting of civilians? Not "just" collateral damage. Give specific examples, not generalizations. Mar 12 at 19:04
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica When your "collateral damage" actually kills more people than others "deliberate mass targeting of civilians", can we be sure what is which? Around 200,000 iraqui people died since the US invasion. We still don't know how many ukrainians will die because of this war, but what if they are a tenth of that? NATO hasn't been accused of deliberately targeting of civilians... by other western powers, but that only proves how well the West controls the narrative. NATO treated the captives with utmost respect... until the images from Abu Grahib started to leak.
    – Rekesoft
    Mar 14 at 12:55
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    @TimurShtatland The convention in British English is to capitalize only the first letter of an initialization, so "Nato" would be correct in that variety of English. The standard spelling of the country (at least in American English) is neither "Libia" nor "Lybia", but "Libya". And while there is some value to informing people of grammatical errors, I find your tone to be a bit arrogant. There's a difference between mentioning grammatical errors and suggesting that grammatical correctness is a prerequisite of participation. Mar 14 at 23:51
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Mariupol is an important Ukrainian port traditionally used in shipping of Donbass exports.

It is located on the land claimed by DNR and have been a constant source of worries to them since Ukraine made it into a base for its army and far-right batallions. The 2014 counteroffence stopped just short of the city which was practically undefended then, but today - a different picture.

Edit: On a pragmatic side, a lot of Russian airports remain closed. Capturing Mariupol would move the front line further away and will probably allow reopening of Krasnodar, Anapa and Gelendzhik airports, which are important for Russian sea tourism season, which usually starts in late May and will be disrupted otherwise. Not sure about the Simferopol airports as it's still situated too close to Ukraine.

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    Thank you for your answer. Would be happy to upvote after you add the missing references. Could you please add references to support this: "a base for its army and far-right batallions". We have estimates for the current civilian population of Mariupol. What is your estimate (with source) of the number of fighters in the Ukranian army in Mariupol and especially the far-right batallions in Mariupol (more than one, since you use the plural "batallions"). This is important in the estimates of the collateral damage (military to civilian kill ratio). TYIA! Mar 12 at 13:12
  • dragon-first-1.livejournal.com/52143.html - the map shows several units stationed there.
    – alamar
    Mar 14 at 10:03
  • "Ukraine made it into a base for its army and far-right batallions" [citation needed]. Russian propaganda does not count. Are the babies in the maternity clinic in the army, or "far-right"?
    – RedSonja
    Mar 14 at 12:41
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    I'm just not sure what claim you are arguing with.
    – alamar
    Mar 14 at 12:46
  • The link you've posted in a comment leads to what appears to be a private person's blog which has a huge disclaimer on its first page stating that due to the "special military operation" in Ukraine the blog's purpose from now on will be to "provide support to the Russian armed forces and those of the Donetsk and Luhanks republics" (translation mine), and that it will only use the official data from those armed forces. Given their data can hardly be objective, is there a more credible source for your claims in this answer? Mar 21 at 19:52
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There is at least 2 significant reasons why Mariupol is being attacked.

  1. As this answer already covers it, Mariupol's area would complete the land bridge between Russia and Crimea.
  2. But the other reason is that it is one of the furthest cities from Ukraine's capital Kyiv and Mariupol can be bombarded from the Sea.

Russian forces' attack of Kyiv has mostly stalled due to heavy concentration of Ukrainian armed forces in Kyiv.

Unlike its land forces, Russia's Navy appears to be mostly unopposed.

The deliberate targeting of the civilians in Mariupol may be a strategy designed to draw the Ukrainian army away from Kyiv to re-enforce the defense of Mariupol.

The bombardment of the city of Mariupol has been marked by some of the most severe attacks on the civilian population of this war. Anyone who follows the war closely is probably familiar with the fact that over a thousand civilians were trapped in a bombing of theater in Mariupol. Initially they were presumed dead. Close to 1000 are still trapped in the bomb shelter of the theater. If most people the theater were to end up dead, then that alone would roughly double the civilian death count of this war so far.

There was also a reported bombing of a school containing 400 civilians on March 20th.

Russian forces have also fired on civilians trying to evacuate from Mariupol, even during the times of declared cease fires.

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