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A man walks past a destroyed apartment building in Mariupol, in territory under the government of the Donetsk People’s Republic, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 4, 2022. (AP)

Mariupol has been a key fighting ground as Moscow looks to overturn its 2014 loss when the Russia-backed separatists had failed to capture the city in the Donetsk oblast (region). We explain why Mariupol holds the key to the Russian offensive.

Geographically, Mariupol forms a land bridge between Crimea–which Russia annexed in 2014–and Dobass, the separatist-held regions of Ukraine. As of now, the Sea of Azov falls between the Donetsk-Luhansk region and Crimea.

Not just land, capturing Mariupol also gives Russia a maritime advantage. With the fall of Kherson, Russia has already expanded its control over the Black Sea coastline, most of which is dominated by Moscow after it seized Crimea.

Russian oil makes up a fifth of oil refined in Europe, according to the IEA.

Some refineries producing fuel from gasoline to jet fuel such as Germany’s PCK Schwedt and Leuna as well as refineries in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland get fed Russian crude oil via the Druzhba – or “Friendship” – pipeline.

Poland can switch to seaborne supplies from places like Saudi Arabia or Norway via the Gdansk port in the Baltic Sea.

Poland, itself trying to replace all Russian crude in its refineries, could route some of the oil arriving in Gdansk to these two German refineries, but the details have not been worked out yet.

Changing these supply routes will most likely mean higher feedstock prices for two of Germany’s biggest refineries, feeding into higher prices for end consumers

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