Two Associated Press journalists currently in Mariupol have said that the situation there is becoming dire as Russians surround the city, trapping hundreds of thousands of citizens within without food and electricity.
At least 2,500 people have died in the battle, and many of the casualties have been women and children, the AP journalists reported. The actual death toll is likely much higher because it has been difficult to count the dead, and people have been told to leave them in the streets because local facilities can’t handle the volume.
The journalists said that a maternity hospital, the fire department, homes, a church, and a field outside a school have been bombed. Child victims include a baby with an umbilical cord still attached and a 16-year-old whose legs were blown off during a soccer game.
Humanitarian corridors to evacuate women and children have been denied so far, and only about 30,000 people were able to flee in a convoy of vehicles on Wednesday.
On March 10, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said of the city, “They have a clear order to hold Mariupol hostage, to mock it, to constantly bomb and shell it.”
The city is located in an advantageous location and contains high-demand steel and iron plants along with a deep water port.
It also sits between two areas of Russian-backed separatists and Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014. With Mariupol’s capture, Russians would have a clear land corridor to the Sea of Azov, which it would also control.
Researcher for Chatham House’s Russia program Mathieu Boulegue said that Russia’s siege on Mariupol “epitomizes Russian warfare,” noting that Putin had done the same thing to Grozny in Chechnya and Aleppo, Syria in 2016. Both cities were left in ruins.
Attempting to lie
The Russian Embassy in London tried to tweet images of the bombed maternity hospital claiming it was “fake news” and that the maternity hospital had not been in use. They even said one of the mothers who had to leave just hours before going into labor, Mariana Vishegirskaya, was an actor Ukraine had hired.
Twitter flagged that post and removed it, but how much of the damage from a skeptical audience was already done.
Sherhiy Orlov, the city’s deputy mayor, said the situation will only get worse as time goes on.
“Our defenders will defend to the last bullet,” he said. “But people are dying without water and food, and I think in the next several days we will count hundreds and thousands of deaths.”