Poland’s ambassador to Ukraine Bartosz Cichocki said that Kyiv’s forces may have been able to prevent the “tragedy” of Russia’s siege of Mariupol if they had received High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) sooner.
The delivery of HIMARS to Ukraine from the United States has been described by military analysts as a “game-changer” for the country as it defends itself against Moscow’s unprovoked aggression. The siege of Mariupol, which resulted in countless civilian deaths and alleged war crimes by Russian forces, lasted from the start of the war on February 24 until May 20, when the remaining Ukrainian forces in the city surrendered. Meanwhile, the first shipment of HIMARS did not arrive until late June.
“We know perfectly well that if the HIMARS had reached Ukraine earlier, the Mariupol tragedy might not have happened. The Ukrainians simply stood 100 kilometers from this city, they were separated by a flat area, they were unable to move the front lines and were forced to idly watch the tragedy of their comrades,” Cichocki said in an interview with Polska Times published Friday.
“We have to ask ourselves, are we going to watch Ukraine bleed out? eventually win, and then recover for decades?” he asked. “Which will also lead to a long-term state of instability along our borders. Or will we now make even more effort and accelerate this victory and, as a result, shorten the recovery period?”
The Polish diplomat said that he did not see any way Ukraine would lose as it continues to fight back against Russia, adding that Kyiv’s forces would only falter if Western nations in “some incomprehensible twist” give up their support for the Eastern European nation.
Thousands of civilians are estimated to have been buried in mass graves by Russian forces in Mariupol during the nearly three-month long siege. The maternity ward of a hospital as well as a theater sheltering hundreds of civilians in the city were also bombed by Moscow’s troops. The local government said that at least 90 percent of the city’s buildings had been damaged in the assault.
“Russian forces’ assault on Mariupol relied on attacks and tactics that resulted in indiscriminate and disproportionate civilian suffering and loss of life,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement in mid-June.
“It is imperative that Russian forces be held accountable for unlawful attacks and other serious violations of international humanitarian law in the city. Documenting all such instances will take time, given the sheer numbers of strikes that took place,” the organization added.
The U.S., Poland and other NATO allies have provided Ukraine with billions of dollars in military and humanitarian assistance since the conflict began, including HIMARS. Kyiv and Western military officials have hailed the rocket systems as bolstering Ukraine’s forces. Already, Ukraine had repelled Russia’s initial invasion, forcing Moscow to concentrate its efforts on the country’s southeastern Donbas region. Russian President Vladimir Putin and other Kremlin officials reportedly believed that they would swiftly take control of most of Ukraine and topple its government when they launched the invasion more than five months ago.
Kremlin leaders continue to attempt to justify the attack on Ukraine by bizarrely claiming that the country is run by Nazis. In reality, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish and had family members who died during the Holocaust genocide perpetuated by the German Nazis in World War II. When Zelensky was elected with nearly three-quarters of the vote in 2019, Ukraine’s prime minister was also Jewish.
Newsweek reached out to the Russian foreign ministry for comment.