Ukraine Conflict: Why a victory in Mariupol is important to Russia

Ukraine Conflict: Why a victory in Mariupol is important to Russia

Russia already has control over Crimean peninsula which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Russia has been attacking Ukraine's port city of Mariupol for weeks. After Russian forces entered Ukraine on February 24, Mariupol has received a near-constant battering from Russia with strikes destroying large part of the city. Ukrainian forces have been trying to defend the Azov Sea port but they have been pushed back due to Russian attacks. What importance does the port have for Vladimir Putin? Why is Russia hell-bent on capturing Mariupol? Here are some of the reasons.

1. Land connect with Crimea and Donbass

Russia already has control over Crimean peninsula which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014. Russia faces allegations of supporting secessionist elements in Ukraine's Donbass region. Mariupol is a major city situated between these two regions.

If Russia captures Mariupol, its forces in Crimea and Donbass will be able to have a greater connect with each other. This may prove useful for Russia to stage attacks deeper in Ukraine.

2. Cornering Ukraine's economy

Mariupol is a major Ukrainian port on the Azov Sea. Russian control on Mariupol will make Ukraine unable to carry out vital international trade from the port. This may create problems for Ukrainian economy potentially affecting country's capacity to resist Russian influence and invasion in future.

Losing Mariupol would mean Ukraine would lose sufficient access to up to 80 per cent of its coastline on the Black Sea.

3. The PR value!

World was taken aback when Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. It was expected by some that Russian forces would sweep across Ukraine and will be able to score a swift victory.

Ukraine Conflict: Why a victory in Mariupol is important to Russia
Over 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers surrender in Mariupol: Russia

However, after nearly two months. Russian forces have been unable to capture a major city. Though Russian forces launched attacks of Ukrainian capital Kyiv, soldiers on ground were soon diverted to other regions.

In such a scenario, victory in Mariupol would be a big PR boost for Russia as they will have captured a major urban area.

4. Morale booster

Fall of Mariupol can be a morale booster for Russian troops and citizens. Media reports have hinted at low morale of Russian forces in a conflict that has not yielded a major win till now.

If Mariupol falls into Russian hands, Kremlin may publicise the victory as indication that Russian forces were achieving their objectives in the Ukraine conflict.

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