In Mariupol not only communication with the outside world is broken, but also water, heating and lighting. Residents of the coastal city in eastern Ukraine, which until last week was relatively affluent due to its status as a global shipping hub, are now having to collect rainwater from gutters.
Without boilers, they make fires in their yards to warm themselves; The only news of the war they can glean comes from the direction of the nearby shelling. When daylight fades, despite the terror and hunger, all they can do is try to sleep. Without electricity, they can’t charge their phones to know what’s going on or tell anyone they’re alive. Their cars have run out of fuel. Rare shipments of bread and water attract snakes, but the humanitarian organizations bringing the supplies dare not stop in one place; they would be shot at.
Mariupol and its almost half a million inhabitants are under siege.
For five days, buildings including shops, hospitals and schools were relentlessly looted by Russian forces from dawn to dusk.
Deputy Mayor of Mariupol Sergei Orlov warned that a humanitarian crisis is imminent, he said BBC that Russia is indiscriminately attacking the city, while British officials said on Friday it was encircled by Russian forces.
Nonetheless, the port on the Sea of Azov, home to a sizeable population of Greek descent, is a symbol of resistance to Russian onslaught.
It is a key strategic target for Vladimir Putin’s army because it has defied violence by pro-Russian rebels in the nearby Donetsk and Luhansk regions for the past eight years, and capturing the city now would allow the separatists to do so to join forces with troops Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.
The Russian-Ukrainian conflict in the Donbass region never ended, and the Kyiv government remained committed to reclaiming Crimea.
“8th. War year, 9th day genocide, 4th day of Mariupol without communication. What’s happening in the city right now: There’s no light at all, people in the dark, devices can’t be charged. Because of this there is no water,” wrote Diana Berg, deputy head of the NGO Azov Development Agency, on Facebook.
“I saw people collecting rainwater from the pipes. There is no heating – because the boilers work with electricity. I saw people in the yards making fires to keep warm.”
“This is a humanitarian catastrophe for the civilian population. This is just genocide,” Ms. Berg wrote.
Other residents – among the few who were able to spread news via social media – said Russian forces also damaged a railway link, destroyed bridges and wrecked trains to prevent women, children and the elderly from Mariupol from being evacuated to safety.
Another citizen, Petro Andryushchenko, accused the Russians of disrupting food supplies and setting the city on course for a hunger siege like Leningrad during World War II, when a million people died.
Some water is being provided by an “autotanker,” he said, and volunteers are doing their best to restore the city’s critical infrastructure and are working with international institutions to create a “green corridor” for humanitarian missions.
He warned people not to bother calling because calls wouldn’t get through, suggesting texting instead, hoping for Thursday’s agreement between the two countries to create humanitarian corridors.
On Thursday, Mr Andryushchenko wrote about “an information hunger,” adding: “We will learn this and find each other only when there is power, and that will be when the damn Russians are either destroyed, or there is a rest day and more humanitarian.” Corridor.”
He added: “Today Russian fascists are causing a humanitarian catastrophe in Mariupol!
“We will be destroyed as a nation. This is genocide against the Ukrainian people. These hypocrites came to “save” the Russian-speaking citizens of Mariupol and the region. And arranged for the annihilation of Ukrainians…of Russian, Ukrainian, Greek and other origins.”
On Friday he added: “We stand. Our defenders are doing the impossible – there are no words to express the gratitude.”
After nine days, Mr. Putin may have managed to destroy Mariupol’s buildings and support systems, but his mission to break the spirit of his citizens has shown no sign of success.
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