The head of a pro-Russian rebel group in Ukraine has vowed to rebuild the devastated city of Mariupol — as a vacation hotspot.
Denis Pushilin, the leader of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), made the twisted promise Monday after attending Victory Day events in the almost completely destroyed seaport city — and as around 100 civilians remain trapped at the Azovstal steel mill there.
“Russia is here forever, and you are finally home,” he told Mariupol residents, according to CNN, citing Russian state news agency TASS.
“Now this is the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic forever. No one will take it away from us … We have strength, we have opportunities, we have the support of the biggest beautiful country — Russia,” he said.
“The task is to make Mariupol a resort city, which has not been possible to do before.”
Pushilin said the Azovstal plant, the last place where Ukrainian soldiers and civilians remain, had “negatively affected the ecology of the city,” according to the reports.
“If Azovstal is not restored, then we will make a resort town,” Pushilin said, promising jobs and income to the largely razed city.
He said his rebel group’s priority was “to liberate all of our lands,” and “to start rebuilding cities.”
The Kremlin had previously said there would be no celebrations in the battered city for Victory Day, which marks Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in 1945.
But Pushilin and his rebel troops carried a nearly 1,000-foot-long black and orange ribbon of Saint George through the city, which was long left without electricity, food or medicines during the near-constant barrage.
“For eight long years the inhabitants of this city could not wear this symbol of courage and military glory of soldiers-liberators,” he said on Telegram, claiming that it was “banned by the Kyiv regime.”
The Azov Regiment of Ukraine’s National Guard, one of several Ukrainian units holed up at a Mariupol steel plant, says Russian war planes targeted the sprawling plant 34 times over the past 24 hours.
The regiment said in an online statement Tuesday that the Russians continue pounding the besieged Azovstal steel mill with naval and barrel artillery while using tanks and other weapons in “attempts to seize the Ukrainian fortress.”
One of the Ukrainian fighters holding out in the Mariupol steelworks said Monday they were still defending the city.
Valeri Paditel, who heads the border guards in the Donetsk region, said the fighters were “doing everything to make those who defend the city in the future proud.”
With Post wires