It has been more than a month since Russia first invaded Ukraine and it appears that Russia is on the verge of completely capturing one of its most important and strategic targets — the southeastern port city of Mariupol.
The mayor of Mariupol, Vadym Boichenko, acknowledged Monday that significant portions of his besieged city were now “in the hands of the occupiers today,” the New York Post reported.
The city has quite clearly been a top prize sought after by Russia given its location on the coast of the Sea of Azov and position as a sort of land bridge between the Russian-occupied separatist-controlled Donbas region to the east and Russian-annexed and occupied Crimea to the south.
Mariupol nearly completely lost
“Not everything is in our power,” Mayor Boichenko said in a live television interview Monday, according to CNN. “Unfortunately, we are in the hands of the occupiers today.”
Mariupol has been incessantly pounded with airstrikes and artillery shelling since the war began and, increasingly in recent weeks, has been the scene of intense street fighting as Russian forces continue to tighten their encirclement of that key city that was once home for more than 400,000 people.
“According to our estimates, about 160,000 people are in the besieged city of Mariupol today, where it is impossible to live because there is no water, no electricity, no heat, no connection,” Boichenko said. “And it’s really scary.”
Evacuation and humanitarian efforts not going as planned
The mayor pleaded for a chance to completely evacuate all remaining civilians and some purportedly safe evacuation corridors had been opened, but Boichenko and other Ukrainian officials have claimed that Russia has attacked those corridors or even intercepted evacuating refugees and directed them northeastward to locations inside Russia instead of elsewhere in western Ukraine or Europe, according to the BBC.
Boichenko also accused the Russian forces of “playing games” with the evacuation efforts in terms of approving and then abruptly canceling plans for buses to transit the supposedly safe evacuation corridors.
The Financial Times reported that Russia and Ukraine had reached an agreement to establish 12 “humanitarian corridors” across the embattled nation to facilitate civilian evacuations out of the combat zones while allowing desperately needed aid to reach those who cannot or will not leave.
“Humanitarian corridors are the only opportunity for civilians to run away from the hell they are experiencing,” Oksana Pokalchuk, executive director of Amnesty International in Ukraine, told FT. “In Mariupol, Chernihiv, Izyum, Trostianets, Slavutych, Irpin, Hostomel and many other cities, hundreds, thousands of people remain in hell right now without water, food, electricity, gas and heating.”
City nearly completely damaged or destroyed
Meanwhile, CNN reported that, according to Ukrainian officials, roughly 90 percent of Mariupol’s buildings have been damaged, with about 60 percent taking direct hits and 40 percent being completely destroyed, which includes many of the city’s hospitals and schools, not to mention its factories and port facilities.
It was also noted that of the initial 400,000 estimated population before the war, around 140,000 residents managed to escape Mariupol before it was encircled while another 150,000 are believed to have exited amid the ongoing siege. It is further estimated that around 30,000 of those who left ended up being diverted to Russia, in many cases likely against their will.