Making the port city of Mariupol a land bridge between the eastern Donbas area and the occupied Crimea peninsular has long been considered as a vital milestone in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
But weeks of determined resistance have led to continued frustration for Vladimir Putin and his generals.
More importantly, the constant shelling has caused immeasurable suffering to the people of the city, not to mention its almost total destruction.
Now, it seems Russia has decided it does not need to complete the conquest and will instead try to starve out the last Ukrainian defenders.
Whether this will lead to their slow surrender, or give them a chance to break out of the complex is going to be important, not just militarily but also for Ukrainian morale.
Ukraine’s deputy prime minister has called for an urgent humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians trapped in Mariupol. A similar plea yesterday for 6,000 people to be taken to safety resulted in just four buses leaving the city.