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Mariupol’s Splintering Loyalties May Be Enough for Vladimir Putin

While they did not invite the war from Russia, some residents of the besieged city are now more interested in ending it than in defending Ukraine’s sovereignty.

People cook a meal in the rubble of an apartment damaged by shelling in Mariupol on March 29.

People cook a meal in the rubble of an apartment damaged by shelling in Mariupol on March 29.

Photographer: Anadolu/Getty Images

Before escaping Mariupol, a critical target in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, “Nataliya” found herself arguing with some of the neighbors in her Stalin-era apartment block. They blamed the presence of Ukrainian defenders for Russian bombs and artillery shells that were raining destruction on their besieged southern city. 

To them, Nataliya said, it didn’t matter which flag they lived under, Ukrainian or Russian, so long as the shelling stopped. They believed Russian troops were targeting Ukrainian soldiers within the city and would, she added, have been happy to surrender it.