MOSCOW: A senior Russian official on Monday outlined plans to rebuild Ukraine’s southern port city of Mariupol that suffered a devastating siege and heavy shelling before being captured by Russian troops.
The move is part of a broader effort by Moscow to increase support in areas of Ukraine under Russian control since the military operation in February began.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin said in an interview with Russia’s RBC television channel that the first buildings under construction will be ready in the fall.
“The first residential buildings will be operational in September. We will have the first hospitals, build an Emergency Department center,” he said.
Khusnullin also said that there are plans to rebuild Mariupol’s historic center, renovating all buildings that have not been completely destroyed by Russian bombardment.
The city on the Sea of Azov had a population of about 400,000 before Russia sent troops to pro-Western Ukraine, forcing many residents to flee the violence.
Khusnullin said Mariupol’s population is expected to reach 350,000 by 2025, without specifying how this goal will be achieved.
As for the Azovstal steel plant, a Soviet-era plant employing more than 12,000 people, it will not be rebuilt to its former capacity, Khusnullin said.
“But we will definitely create jobs there to feed the city. It will most likely become a technology park with landscape elements,” he said.
Azovstal became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance as Mariupol’s defenders stood their last against the Russian army inside the underground tunnels of the factory before surrendering in May.
Hundreds of Ukrainian defenders and civilians spent weeks locked underground in Azovstal as the Russians continued their military campaign in Ukraine that began on February 24.
Above ground, the inhabitants of Mariupol have endured a brutal siege for weeks without electricity, food and water in the dead of winter.