'To the end': Mariupol fighters defy Russia's surrender-or-die demand

Ukraine's prime minister has insisted their soldiers will 'fight to the end', as Correspondent Peter Smith reports

Ukrainian fighters still putting up resistance inside the shattered city of Mariupol ignored a surrender-or-die ultimatum from the Russians on Sunday.

The fall of the strategically vital port, the site of a seven-week-old siege that has reduced much of the city to ruin, would free up Russian troops for a battle to control Ukraine’s industrial east.

Moscow gave the defenders a midday deadline to surrender, saying those who laid down their arms were “guaranteed to keep their lives.”

The Ukrainians rejected it, just as they did with previous ultimatums. “We will fight absolutely to the end, to the win, in this war,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal vowed on ABC News.

On Saturday, Russia's Defence Ministry claimed Ukrainian forces had been driven out of most of the city and remained only in the huge Azovstal steel mill - this claim is unverified.

The Russian military estimated that about 2,500 Ukrainian fighters provided the last pocket of resistance in Mariupol.

Firefighters work to extinguish multiple fires after a Russian attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine on Saturday. Credit: AP

"All those who will continue resistance will be destroyed,” Major General Igor Konashenkov, the Russian Defence Ministry's spokesman, said.

Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar described Mariupol as a “shield defending Ukraine” as Russian troops prepare for a full-scale offensive in Donbas.

The country's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, warned that Russian forces are "deliberately trying to destroy everyone" in the city.

He said Ukraine urgently needs more heavy weapons from the West immediately to have any chance of saving the city.

The continuing siege of Mariupol, which has come at a horrific cost to trapped and starving civilians, could end attempts to negotiate peace, he added.

“The destruction of all our guys in Mariupol - what they are doing now - can put an end to any format of negotiations,” he said.

It comes as Russian forces renewed missile strikes on Kyiv and intensified shelling of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, in an apparent strategy to hobble Ukraine's defences in preparation for what is expected to be a full-scale Russian assault in the east.

These attacks and others scattered across the country were an explosive reminder to Ukrainians and their Western supporters that the whole country remains under threat.

Each day brings new discoveries of civilian victims of an invasion that has shattered European security.

In the towns and villages just outside Kyiv, authorities have reported finding the bodies of more than 900 civilians, most shot dead, since Russian troops retreated two weeks ago.

President Zelenskyy estimated that 2,500 to 3,000 Ukrainian troops have died in the war, and about 10,000 have been wounded.

The office of Ukraine’s prosecutor general said Saturday that at least 200 children have been killed, and more than 360 wounded.

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After the humiliating loss of its flagship Black Sea Fleet ship, Russia's military command vowed to step up missile strikes on the capital.

The Russians said they hit an armoured vehicle plant on Saturday, a day after targeting a missile plant.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko advised residents who fled the city earlier in the war not to return.

“We’re not ruling out further strikes on the capital,” he said. “If you have the opportunity to stay a little bit longer in the cities where it’s safer, do it.”

The mayor said Saturday's strike killed one person and wounded several.

The Russian missiles hit the city just as residents were emerging for walks, foreign embassies planned to reopen and other tentative signs of the city's pre-war life started resurfacing, following the failure of Russian troops to capture Kyiv and their withdrawal.

Nadiya Trubchaninova cries while holding the coffin of her son Vadym who was killed by Russian soldiers in Bucha. Credit: AP

Kyiv was one of many targets Saturday.

The Ukrainian president’s office reported missile strikes and shelling over the past 24 hours in eight regions across the country.

The governor of the Lviv region in western Ukraine, which has been only sporadically touched by the war’s violence, reported airstrikes on the region by Russian aircraft.

In Kharkiv in the northeast, Mayor Ihor Terekhov said three people were killed and 34 wounded on Saturday.

One explosion believed to have been caused by a missile sent rescue workers scrambling near an outdoor market. They said one person was killed and at least 18 wounded.

The day before, rockets hit a residential area of Kharkiv, killing a 15-year-old boy, an infant and at least eight other people, officials said.