(CN) — About 1,000 Ukrainian marines have surrendered in Mariupol as the southeastern port city falls under Russian control, according to Russia’s defense ministry.
The mass surrender was first reported late Tuesday and videos seemed to confirm that many Ukrainian marines had laid down their arms. On Monday, the Ukrainian brigade of marines in Mariupol issued a dire message saying they had run out of ammunition, food and water. Some 1,000 or more Ukrainian fighters, including many members of the far-right Azov Regiment, are still holding out in Mariupol.
U.S. President Joe Biden added more fuel to the dangerous tensions between the Kremlin and the West by accusing Russia of committing genocide in Ukraine. On Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron cautioned against Biden’s use of the term genocide and said Russians and Ukrainians are “brothers.”
Pressure continues to build on Russia with the Swedish and Finnish governments initiating steps to join the NATO military alliance and the European Union moving to add Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia as members. The Kremlin is warning Finland and Sweden to not join NATO.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said a decision to apply to join the alliance will be made within weeks. She said “everything had changed” after Russia attacked Ukraine. She spoke at a joint news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.
Public opinion in both countries has shifted toward favoring NATO membership with Finns expressing much more support since the Ukraine invasion. NATO says it would welcome their applications.
This week Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov decried their siding with NATO and charged that “the alliance remains a tool geared towards confrontation.”
The war in Ukraine entered its 49th day on Wednesday and it is building toward a new bloody phase as both sides prepare for major battles in eastern Ukraine, a region known as the Donbas. Russia is moving troops and equipment toward the Donbas and Ukraine too is trying to build up its forces there, who are in danger of getting encircled.
Biden made his accusation about genocide as evidence of war crimes continues to mount. Hundreds of bodies of Ukrainians killed in the war are being examined in areas near Kyiv held for more than a month by Russian troops, who are accused of rape, torture, summary executions, looting and indiscriminate shelling of civilian homes and infrastructure.
With Russian President Vladimir Putin, top officials and Russian state media calling for an end to Ukraine as a state, some experts argue that Russia’s assault on Ukraine and its people does amount to genocide.
On Tuesday, Biden told reporters that he believes Russia is guilty of genocide.
“Yes, I called it genocide,” the president told reporters in Iowa shortly before boarding Air Force One to return to Washington. “It’s become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being a Ukrainian.”
At an earlier event in Menlo, Iowa, where he talked about spiking energy prices resulting from the war, Biden had implied that he thought Putin was carrying out genocide against Ukraine, but offered no details.
On Wednesday, Macron said in an interview with France 2 that he disagreed with Biden, though he said war crimes were being committed.
“I am wary of such terms today because these two peoples [Russians and Ukrainians] are brothers,” Macron said. “I want to continue to try as hard as I can to stop this war and restore peace. I am not sure that the escalation of rhetoric serves this cause.”