St. Petersburg faced the worst crisis during the 2nd World War, and goes down in history books as the longest siege ever taken on a city. The city was then known as Leningrad, and was the second largest city in the Soviet Union. During the 2nd World War, the city remained cut off by German and the Finnish army for 4 ever-lasting years. However, at the end, the Soviet army achieved a breakthrough and drove the Germans and the Nazi regime to the point of extinction.
In the ongoing Ukraine-Russia, Russia had air superiority, a bigger army and modern weaponry. However, Ukraine managed to hold back Russian aggression in most areas and even drove the Russian army back in various sectors. However, the Donbas region, the main centre of conflict, had strong backing of the separatists, and the nationals are finding it difficult to hold ground and stop attacks from both the Russian army and the Russian-backed separatists.
The cities of Donetsk and Luhansk already have some degree of autonomy as the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic. Russia also had control over Sevastopol and the Crimean peninsula. Only the city of Mariupol, in the Donetsk region, posed the final hurdle between Russian-controlled Crimea and Russian-backed regions of Ukraine.
Since the war began, Mariupol witnessed heavy fighting among 3 parties, the advancing Russian army from both Crimea and Donetsk sides, and the Ukrainian army, which includes the Azov Battalion, and the Russian-backed separatists in the region. Russia had surrounded Mariupol from 3 sides, and for more than a month, the only connection between Government-controlled Ukraine and Mariupol was the Sea of Azov. Even the Sea of Azov was mostly Russian controlled, leaving Mariupol to starve and surrender. The condition became so worse that the entire city was razed to the ground by Russian missiles and most residents were left without adequate food and water to live.
Slowly but steadily, Russia advanced to control Mariupol as capturing it would ensure a land bridge between Crimea and the Donbas region. The city hold up for 2 long months, but lost more than 20,000 civilians. Half the city fled to other Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors, and the other half was forcefully dislocated to Russia. As of now, Russia controls almost the entire city except the Azovstal Steel Plant, a massive industry covering 11 square kilometers. Russia does not want to take the Steel Plant by force, but let the civilians and the army living inside to die of hunger or forcefully surrender. However, as per latest updates, Russia have agreed for civilian evacuation from Azovstal where more than 2000 soldiers and an estimated equal number of civilians are trapped. With taking of Mariupol Russia had an upper hand in the war, though it withdrew from Kyiv and its surrounding areas, after encountering fierce resistance.
Written by – Himadri Paul