Sunday, March 20, 2022

The Annihilation of Mariupol (VIDEO)

At the Financial Times, "‘Hell on earth’: survivors recount Mariupol’s annihilation under Russian bombs":

Residents who escaped from besieged Ukrainian port depict harrowing conditions for civilians.

In the besieged city of Mariupol, scene of the heaviest fighting in Russia’s three-week war on Ukraine, people are now so hungry they are killing stray dogs for food.

Dmytro, a businessman who left the city on Tuesday, said friends told him they resorted to this desperate measure in the past few days after their supplies ran out.

“You hear the words but it’s impossible to really take them in, to believe this is happening,” he said. “It is hell on earth.”

Once one of Ukraine’s most important ports, Mariupol is now a charnel house, a city of ghosts. For more than two weeks it has been subjected to a Russian bombardment of such intensity that it has turned whole neighbourhoods into piles of smouldering rubble.

After days of punishing aerial and artillery assaults that broke Mariupol’s three lines of defensive fortifications, Russian troops have now entered the city centre, with heavy fighting reported on some of its main shopping streets and near Theatre Square, a key landmark.

On Sunday night, Russia gave Ukraine until 5am local time to decide whether to surrender Mariupol. Its defence ministry said it would allow Ukrainian troops to leave the city, but only if they lay down their arms. 

Russian forces are already in control of Livoberezhnyi Raion, or left-bank district, in the east of the city, as well as Mikroraiony 17-23, a string of residential neighbourhoods in the north-east, said Anna Romanenko, a Ukrainian journalist who is in close contact with Ukrainian forces there. “The front line runs right through Mariupol now,” she said.

Dmytro, who declined to give his surname, was one of a number of Mariupol residents the Financial Times contacted by phone after they had been evacuated over the past week to the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia, about 230km to the west. All described an assault so brutal it has destroyed the city, killed and maimed countless civilians and left deep scars on the survivors.

Mykola Osichenko, chief executive of Mariupol TV, said his abiding memory of the past three weeks was the feeling of utter powerlessness. “When the bombs fell, I would routinely cover my son with my body,” he said. “But I knew that I couldn’t really protect him, that it was an act of desperation.”

Strategically located on the Sea of Azov, the gateway to the Black Sea, Mariupol was in Russia’s crosshairs from the start of the war. From just a few days in, its forces started launching missiles at the city in an onslaught that severed its electricity, gas and water supplies and left its 400,000 residents cowering in freezing shelters, hugging for warmth. Mariupol authorities said 2,400 residents of the city had been killed since Russia launched its invasion.

Survivors described desperate attempts to stock up on supplies while bombs exploded around them. Dmytro said he visited the central market last Sunday after it had been flattened by a Russian artillery attack.

“Everything was burning, there were corpses everywhere, and I was just walking through, picking up a cabbage here, a carrot there, knowing it meant my family would live another day or two,” he said. “You become completely desensitised.”

Witnesses depicted post-apocalyptic scenes of stray dogs eating the remains of bombing victims who lay unburied on the street. Civilian casualties have been placed in mass graves or buried in the courtyards of houses: proper funerals are too dangerous...

 Still more.