Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Ruined Mariupol forever etched in Ukraine’s history

Women walk past a destroyed building in Mariupol (Alexei Alexandrov/AP)
Women walk past a destroyed building in Mariupol (Alexei Alexandrov/AP)

The ruined seaside city of Mariupol, whose capture has become a key Russian objective, is now irrevocably etched into Ukrainian history, regardless of the outcome of the war.

In the end, a small group of outgunned and outmanned nationalist fighters held out for months, drawing Russian airstrikes, artillery and tank fire down upon the massive Azovstal steel plant, where they made their last stand.

“The 83 days of the defence of Mariupol will go down in history as Thermopylae of the 21st century,” said Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukraine’s president.

“The Azovstal defenders thwarted the enemy’s plans to seize eastern Ukraine, drew away enormous numbers of enemy forces, and changed the course of the war.”

Ukraine Russia
Buildings damaged during heavy fighting in Mariupol (AP)

Thermopylae is widely considered one of history’s most glorious defeats, in which 300 Spartans held off a much larger Persian force in 480 BC, before finally succumbing.

They were killed to a man, including their king.

Mariupol’s martyrdom first came into focus with the March 9 Russian airstrike on a maternity hospital, then with another airstrike a week later on a theatre that was serving as the city’s largest bomb shelter, with the word CHILDREN written in Russian on the pavement outside to deter an attack.

Nearly 600 people were killed, inside and outside the theatre, by some estimates.

Russia Ukraine War
A woman who fled from Mariupol (Francisco Seco/AP)

Suddenly, no place felt safe, and its residents fled by the thousands.

But those at Azovstal, the steel mill in the port on the Sea of Azov, hunkered down in the labyrinth of tunnels and underground rooms.

On some days, it was targeted by dozens of explosions. Little by little, the Azovstal civilians took advantage of humanitarian ceasefires to flee.

Finally, on Monday, more than 260 fighters, some of them seriously wounded and taken out on stretchers, emerged and turned themselves over to the Russian side.

The two governments are negotiating their fate.

Ukraine Russia
Tanks in Mariupol (Alexei Alexandrov/AP)

Other fighters, their precise numbers unknown, remain inside the ruins that sprawl over four square miles in the otherwise now Russian-held city of shattered buildings and apartment blocks.

What Russia described as a mass surrender, the Ukrainians say was a mission fulfilled.

The capture of the strategic port city would allow Moscow to link the Crimean Peninsula, which it annexed in 2014, with the separatist regions of the Donbas that it now controls, and on to the Russian border.

Seizing Mariupol also gives Russian president Vladimir Putin an elusive military victory – won at the cost of the city itself, which lies in ruins as it has since the siege began at the beginning of March.

One Mariupol resident, who fled her home in April with little hope of return, said: “It is very difficult when you see that your city, which has been built before your eyes and restored, becoming more and more beautiful, is dying.”