Putin Ally Eyes Decimated Ukrainian City for 'Resort Business'

The leader of the self-declared, Russian-backed Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) in eastern Ukraine reportedly wants to rebuild the heavily damaged city of Mariupol "with an emphasis on the resort business."

The comments from Denis Pushilin, the head of the breakaway republic, were reported Wednesday by the Ukrainian news site Ukrayinska Pravda. He also said that a technology park or park area could be built on the site of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, from which hundreds of Ukrainian fighters recently evacuated after maintaining a pocket of resistance against Russian forces at the facility, the Russian-state owned news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Pushilin's stated goal of rebuilding the heavily damaged and long-besieged city with a "resort" focus came as remaining Mariupol residents reportedly struggle to find food, water and medicine after facing weeks of Russia's assault. The Mariupol City Council said in a Telegram post Wednesday that civilians currently spend their days trying to find basic necessities and "have become hostages of the medieval way of life," according to a translation.

"The main thing is to understand that development and a real return to normal life is possible only after the return of the city under the full control of Ukraine," a translated version of the council's post read.

Mariupol "Resort" Rebuild Plans
The leader of the self-declared, Russian-backed Donetsk People's Republic in eastern Ukraine reportedly wants to rebuild the heavily damaged city of Mariupol “with an emphasis on the resort business." Above, the city of Mariupol is seen on May 10. Stringer/AFP via Getty Images

The Mariupol City Council said in a separate Telegram post Wednesday that there are plans within the DNR to fully demolish Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant, though the council did not specify how or where it obtained that information.

It said that "forces for deoccupation" of Mariupol will soon appear, and that Russians are planning to destroy the plant as a preventative measure.

The council alleged that Russia's purported plans to have the plant destroyed stemmed from the country's desire "to erase any reminder of the heroic deed of the Ukrainian military," according to a translated version of the post.

It also noted the importance of the plant for Ukraine, saying that it provided 10,000 jobs and billions of dollars in foreign exchange earnings and taxes.

Ukraine confirmed Tuesday that more than 250 of its fighters had been evacuated from the Azovstal plant, and Russia said Wednesday that an additional 694 had surrendered, according to Reuters. The additional count remains unconfirmed by Ukraine.

Russia's defense minister said Tuesday that dozens of the evacuated Ukrainian fighters had been brought to a hospital in one of the pro-Russian separatist regions in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address Tuesday that work to rescue Mariupol's "defenders" had begun, but the effort requires "delicacy" and "time."

"​​I want to emphasize, Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive. This is our principle. I think that every adequate person will understand these words," Zelensky said.

It was not immediately clear what Pushilin's "resort business" plans for Mariupol may entail.

Newsweek reached out to the foreign ministries of Russia and Ukraine for comment.