The Ukrainian coastal city of Mariupol is being pulverized and razed to the ground by a relentless Russian artillery and rocket barrage the likes of which haven’t been seen since World War II.

“There are no buildings there anymore,” said 77-year-old Maria Fiodorova, who crossed the border to Poland on Monday. Indeed, there’s no electricity, no fresh water, no food, no medicines, and no communication with the outside world. Mariupol is a black hole and is under siege as the Russians seem content to maintain the attack indefinitely.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell calls what’s happening in Mariupol a “war crime.” Russia has offered to create a humanitarian corridor for civilians to escape in exchange for the city’s surrender, but that was immediately rejected by the Zelenskyy government.

So Mariupol’s agony will continue.


A long line of vehicles lined a road in Bezimenne, Ukraine, as Mariupol residents sought shelter at a temporary camp set up by the rebel Donetsk government. An estimated 5,000 people from Mariupol have taken refuge in the camp. Many arrived in cars with signs that said “children” in Russian.

A woman who gave her name as Yulia said she and her family sought shelter in Bezimenne after a bombing destroyed six houses behind her home.

“That’s why we got in the car, at our own risk, and left in 15 minutes because everything is destroyed there, dead bodies are lying around,” she said. “They don’t let us pass through everywhere — there are shootings.”

There is also concern about the fate of hundreds of citizens who took shelter in an art school and a theater. Both buildings were targeted by missiles and artillery. With the city under constant bombardment, it’s impossible to organize rescue efforts to dig the victims out of the rubble.

Is Mariupol close to being captured? No one can say with any certainty. What can be said is that Russia is exacting a terrible cost for the Ukrainian citizens who remain.

That includes Russia taking thousands of residents from Mariupol to the interior of Russia.


“Over the past week, several thousand Mariupol residents have been taken to Russian territory,” the city said in a statement. “The occupiers illegally took people from the Livoberezhny district and from the shelter in the sports club building, where more than a thousand people (mostly women and children) were hiding from the constant bombing.”

Captured Mariupol residents were taken to camps where Russian forces checked their phones and documents, then redirected some of the residents to remote cities in Russia, the statement said, adding that the “fate of the others is unknown.”

“What the occupiers are doing today is familiar to the older generation, who saw the horrific events of World War II, when the Nazis forcibly captured people,” Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said in the statement. “It is hard to imagine that in the 21st century people can be forcibly taken to another country.”

If Russia can take Mariupol, they can create a land bridge connecting the eastern region of Donbas with the Crimea peninsula, both of which have been under Russian control since 2014. But what would the Russians “win” if they were successful? A near ghost town of desperately hungry — and enraged — Ukrainians.

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