Why Mariupol is Important to Ukraine and Russia?
- Location: Mariupol is in South-eastern Ukraine and is located on the north coast of the Sea of Azov. It is also a large base for Ukrainian armed forces. It is a strategic target for the Russian forces. Notably, Mariupol is an important city for Ukraine and also for the pro-Russian separatists.
- Economic Importance: Mariupol is considered to be a metallurgical centre for iron and steel works. Metinvest, Ukraine’s largest steel plant is also located in the city. Russia is targeting Mariupol for the economic strangulation of Ukraine.
- Largest trading port in the Azov Sea: Ukraine exports grain, iron and steel, and heavy machinery to European and Middle Eastern countries from Mariupol. Notably, Mariupol is on the land bridge that Russia is planning to build between the separatist republics and Crimea.
- If Mariupol was seized, Russia would also end up with full control of more than 80% of Ukraine’s Black Sea coastline – cutting-off its maritime trade and further isolating it from the world.
- Mariupol is home to a Ukrainian militia unit called the Azov Brigade, named after the Sea of Azov which links Mariupol to the rest of the Black Sea. The Azov Brigade contains far-right extremists, historically including neo-Nazis.
- Although they form only the tiniest fraction of Ukraine’s fighting forces, this has been a useful propaganda tool for Moscow, giving it a pretext for telling Russia’s population that the young men it has sent to fight in Ukraine are there to rid their neighbour of neo-Nazis.
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