Mariupol Mayor Calls for Total Evacuation of City – Vadym Boychenko, the Mayor of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, said on Monday that the city was completely destroyed, that thousands have died, and roughly 90% of the city’s residential buildings have been destroyed by Russian bombs in the last four weeks.
Boychenko urged all remaining residents in the city to leave, but also called for the opening of humanitarian corridors in the region to allow desperate residents to leave.
“Mariupol needs a complete evacuation,” Boychenko told the UNIAN news agency.
Boychenko also warned that as many as 30,000 Mariupol residents were forced to use humanitarian corridors that led them to Russian-controlled territories.
Some 140,000 residents managed to flee Mariupol before the Russians took control of the city, and an additional 150,000 have left since then. Those left behind, Boychenko said, are “beyond the line of humanitarian catastrophe.”
Speaking to Reuters, refugees fleeing the city described how children and infants were left starving and pregnant women delivered babies in basements as the hospitals were either unsafe to use or completely destroyed.
“I also found out today that my son’s classmate’s parents were torn apart right in the yard before his eyes,” one resident told Reuters.
Among the 5,000 deaths reported by Boychenko, 210 were children.
Russia Denies Responsibility
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied responsibility for the damage done to residential and hospital buildings in Mariupol, insisting that Russian troops are only targeting military sites in the region.
Speaking to PBS on Monday, Peskov insisted that troops are following strict orders from the Russian government not to target civilians.
“You have to know that, from the very beginning of these special operations, Russian military had a very strict order from the chief commander not to aim at civilian targets,” he said. “And they are not doing that.
Peskov laid the blame for the destruction in Mariupol at the feet of the Azov Battalion, a volunteer militia with fewer than 1500 members that was formed in May 2014. The anti-Russian Ukrainian batallion espouses white nationalist and neo-Nazi ideas, though the group’s political views are not endorsed by the Ukrainian government in anyway.
“Then who is ruining the infrastructure, the civil infrastructure of Mariupol, for example? Those Nazi battalions inside Mariupol, they’re simply killing those who would like to escape from the city,” Peskov claimed.
“The Russian Federation is playing with us. We are in the hands of the invaders,” Boychenko said this week.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.