Ukraine war leaves Mariupol under siege, without water, light, heating or telephones

In Mariupol not only communication with the outside world is cut off, but also water, heating and lighting. Residents of the coastal city in eastern Ukraine — which until last week had been relatively well off due to its status as a global shipping hub — are now limited to collecting rainwater from gutters.

Without boilers, they start fires in their yard to try to warm up; the only news about the war they can pick up comes from the direction of the shelling nearby. When the daylight fades, all they can do is try to sleep, despite the fear and hunger. Without power, they can’t charge their phones to find out what’s going on, or tell someone they’re still alive. Their cars are out of fuel. Rare deliveries of bread and water create queues, but the humanitarian aid organizations that bring the supplies don’t dare to stop in one place; they would be shot at.

Mariupol and its nearly half a million citizens are under siege.

For five days, buildings, including shops, hospitals and schools, were relentlessly ravaged by Russian troops from morning to night.

Mariupol Deputy Mayor Sergei Orlov warned that a humanitarian crisis was imminent when he BBC that Russia attacked the city indiscriminately, while British officials on Friday said it was surrounded by Russian forces.

Nevertheless, the port on the Sea of ​​Azov, home to a sizable population of Greek descent, is a symbol of resistance to the Russian attack.

It is a key strategic target for Vladimir Putin’s army as it has resisted violence by pro-Russian rebels in nearby Donetsk and Luhansk regions for the past eight years. Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

The Russo-Ukrainian conflict in the Donbas region never ended and the Kiev government maintained its intention to reclaim Crimea.

“8th year of the war, 9th day of genocide, 4th day of Mariupol without communication. What is happening in the city right now: There is no light at all, people in the dark, devices cannot be charged. Because of this, there is no water,” Diana Berg, deputy head of the NGO Azov Development Agency, wrote on Facebook.

“I’ve seen people get rainwater out of the pipes. There is no heating – because the boilers run on electricity. I’ve seen people make fires in the courtyards to keep warm.”

A destroyed Ukrainian tank in Gnutovo near Mariupol

(Russian Ministry of Defense/AFP via)

“This is a humanitarian disaster for the civilian population. This is just genocide,” Ms Berg wrote.

Other residents — among the few who could spread social media messages — said Russian forces also damaged a rail link, destroyed bridges and crushed trains to prevent women, children and the elderly from Mariupol from being taken to safety.

Another citizen, Petro Andryushchenko, accused the Russians of disrupting the food supply, putting the city on a path to a famine siege like Leningrad during World War II, when a million people died.

Some water was delivered via a “car tanker,” he said, and volunteers scrambled to repair the city’s critical infrastructure, working with international institutions to create a “green corridor” for humanitarian missions.

This map shows the extent of the Russian invasion of Ukraine

(Press association images)

He warned people not to call because calls wouldn’t come through, and suggested texting instead, pinning his hopes on Thursday’s agreement between the two countries to create humanitarian corridors.

On Thursday, Andryushchenko wrote about “a hunger for information”, adding: “We will learn this and find each other only when there is electricity, and it will be when the damn Russians are destroyed or there will be a day of rest and humanitarian corridor. ”

He added: “Today Russian fascists are causing a humanitarian disaster in Mariupol!

“We are being destroyed as a nation. This is a genocide against the Ukrainian people. These hypocrites came to “rescue” Russian-speaking citizens of Mariupol and the region. And arranged the extermination of Ukrainians… of Russian, Ukrainian, Greek and other descent.”

On Friday he added: “We are standing. Our defenders are doing the impossible – there are no words to express gratitude.”

After nine days, Putin may have managed to destroy Mariupol’s buildings and support systems, but his mission to crush the minds of the citizens has not yet yielded any sign of success.

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our refugee welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we call on the government to move further and faster to ensure that aid is delivered. For more information about our refugee welcome campaign, click here† To sign the petition click here† If you want to donate, please click here for our GoFundMe page.

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