The port city of Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov in Ukraine, has been at the forefront of the conflict in the Donbass region between government troops and pro-Russian separatists since the conflict began in 2014. The historic area was controlled by the rebels for some time and then retaken by government troops. It is a strategic location as it sits right in the middle of a land bridge to the Crimean Peninsula from the mainland of the Russian Federation. Many have speculated Russia could retake the town and annex the entire region.
Violence struck again recently as a Ukrainian counterintelligence officer was murdered by a car bomb while sitting in his car alone.
Lieutenant Colonel Oleksandr Kharaberiush was deputy chief of Donetsk’s local counterintelligence unit, over which Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists have been fighting since 2014. Ukraine’s security service (SBU) was quick to blame the separatists, reports Foreign Policy Magazine.
“The SBU will punish the terrorists who blew up the car with the SBU officer in Mariupol as soon as possible,” the SBU statement said.
In addition to being a strategic port, the city is also home to portions of the Ukrainian steel industry and other logistically important transportation links.
Before Soviet times, Mariupol was an important trading center as it was linked to the Black Sea. Pre-Soviet architecture remains and points to this important past.