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 comes as part of Moscow’s wider efforts to gain support in Ukrainian regions that have come under Russian control since the start of the February military campaign.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin said in an interview with Russia’s RBC TV channel that the first buildings currently under construction will be ready by the autumn.
“The first residential buildings will be standing by September. We will already have the first hospitals, will build a centre of the emergencies ministry,” he said.
Khusnullin also said there were plans to rebuild the historic centre of Mariupol, renovating all buildings that were not completely destroyed by Russian shelling.
The city on the shores of the Sea of Azov had a population of around 400,000 people before Russia sent troops into pro-Western Ukraine, forcing many residents to flee the violence.
Khusnullin said the population of Mariupol should rise to 350,000 people by 2025, without specifying how this goal will be achieved.
As for the Azovstal steelworks, a Soviet era factory that used to employ over 12,000 people, it will not be rebuilt in its previous capacity, Khusnullin said.
“But we will definitely create jobs there that will feed the city. Most likely it will become a technology park with elements of landscape,” he said.
Azovstal became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance when Mariupol’s defenders made a last stand against Russian troops inside the factory’s underground tunnels before surrendering in May.
Hundreds of Ukrainian defenders and civilians spent weeks holed up underground at Azovstal as the Russians pressed on with their military campaign in Ukraine that started on February 24.
Above ground, the residents of Mariupol for weeks endured a brutal siege without electricity, food and water in the dead of winter.