ODESA and LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine emphatically rejected Russia's calls to surrender the strategic southern port city of Mariupol, which Russian forces have besieged and encircled.
After weeks of bombarding the city, which is filled with civilians trapped in deteriorating conditions, Russia offered the ultimatum on Sunday: If Mariupol surrenders, it will let civilians leave and humanitarian aid enter.
Ukrainian officials have refused, in absolute terms — though Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told CNN that he is willing to talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin about negotiating an end to the fighting.
Hard-hit Mariupol will not surrender to Russia
Hundreds of thousands of civilians are trapped in Mariupol, which has no electricity and dwindling supplies of food and water. The city has been the site of at least two bombings of buildings where civilians were seeking shelter: a school and a theater.
Ukrainian officials have so far refused Russia's calls for surrender, with an adviser to the city's mayor even going so far as to use an expletive in a Facebook post rejecting the ultimatum. Ukraine's deputy prime minister told a newspaper that Russia's demands were eight pages of "delusions" and that Russians have taken the people of Mariupol hostage and a surrender is not on the table.
More than 41,000 people have left Mariupol in the past five days, according to its city council, with more evacuations and humanitarian corridors planned Monday.
Here's what's happening in the rest of Ukraine:
Odesa is gearing up for a fight
In Odesa, the feeling in the air, in a word, is defiant.
Under normal circumstances, the Black Sea port city would be drawing tourists in with its 19th century architecture and world-famous opera house and would be bustling with people headed to bars and clubs. But the streets are now blocked off by checkpoints, anti-tank hedgehogs and sandbags, guarded by men with rifles.
Odesa's mayor has cited a proverb when discussing preparations for a potential attack: If you want peace, be ready for the war. He says the city is ready for that attack. The Ukrainian military also says it's confident they'll be able to repel any assault on the Odesa region.
NPR was permitted to review some of their defenses during a trip in the last 24 hours and observed hardened fighting positions, armored vehicles and mined beaches ready to repel a Russian attempt.
Ukrainian officials are watching for potential new fronts
Elsewhere in the country, the Russian military remains stalled in the areas around Kyiv and forces still haven't taken control of any major Ukrainian cities.
Ukrainian officials are on the lookout for new fronts possibly opening, and not just in the south, where Russia's military has been seeing more success. Overnight, the governor of Rivne, a region along Ukraine's northern border with Belarus, announced it had been struck with two missiles.
There has been concern in recent weeks that Russian and even Belarusian troops might open a new front there.
The strikes in Rivne seem to indicate that the Russian military wants to keep that possibility open, or at least keep Ukrainians thinking so.
Rachel Treisman reported from Washington, D.C.
This story also appeared on the Morning Edition live blog.
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
Ukrainian officials are emphatically rejecting a call by Russia to surrender the southern port city of Mariupol. It's been under siege by Russian forces for weeks now. But Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told CNN he is willing to talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin about negotiating an end to the fighting.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY: (Through interpreter) I am ready for negotiations with him. I was ready over the last two years. And I think that without negotiations, we cannot end this war.
FADEL: NPR's Tim Mak is in southwestern Ukraine. I spoke with him earlier this morning.
So let's start with the deteriorating conditions in Mariupol, which the Russian military has encircled. What's the latest?
TIM MAK, BYLINE: Well, hundreds of thousands of civilians remain trapped in that city. And they have dwindling supplies of food and water, and no electricity. You may remember that Mariupol has been the site of at least two bombings of buildings where Ukrainian civilians were seeking shelter - one in a school, another in a theater.
MAK: On Sunday, the Russian military demanded that this embattled southeastern city surrender, after which they said they would let civilians leave and humanitarian aid enter. But so far, Ukrainian officials have absolutely refused. An adviser to the city's mayor used an expletive, actually, in response to the ultimatum and said that they would not be surrendering. They said this in a Facebook post. The deputy prime minister of Ukraine said in an interview with the Ukrainian newspaper that the Russian demands were eight pages of, quote, "delusions" that the Russians have taken the people of Mariupol hostage and that a surrender would not happen.
FADEL: So you're in the city of Odessa right now, which is in the southwest of the country? Can you tell me what conditions are like there right now?
MAK: Well, the feeling in the air, in a word, is defiant. This is a port city along the Black Sea. It's usually a tourism hot spot. It's renowned for its 19th century architecture and world-famous opera house. In pre-war times, this city would be bustling with people going to bars and clubs or even the local highly regarded jazz venue. But now the streets are blocked off by checkpoints and anti-tank hedgehogs, sandbags. And they're guarded by men with rifles everywhere you look. Here's the mayor of Odessa talking about their preparations.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
GENNADIY TRUKHANOV: (Through interpreter) There is a proverb - if you want peace, be ready for the war. So we're ready for that attack from the very first day of the beginning of the war.
MAK: The Ukrainian military says they're confident they'll be able to repel any assault in the Odessa region. NPR was permitted to review some of their defenses during a trip in the last 24 hours. And we observed hardened fighting positions, armored vehicles and mined beaches ready to repel a Russian attempt. But whether that will be enough, we don't yet know.
FADEL: So Odessa getting ready. Let's talk about the rest of the country. We've seen the Russian military stalled in the areas around Kyiv over the last week. Russian forces still haven't taken control of any major Ukrainian city. What can you tell us about the latest?
MAK: Well, we're seeing Ukrainian officials on the lookout for new fronts possibly opening and not just in the south, where the Russian military has seen more successes. Overnight, the governor of Rivne - that's a region along the northern border with Belarus - announced that they had been struck with two missiles. And there's been concern in recent weeks that Russia and even Belarusian troops might open a new front up there. These strikes in Rivne seem to indicate that the Russian military wants to keep open that possibility, or at least have the Ukrainians thinking so.
FADEL: That's NPR's Tim Mak in Odessa. Thank you, Tim.
MAK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.