Ukraine’s president says 100,000 civilians trapped in besieged city of Mariupol

Residents living in ‘inhuman conditions’ without food and water, Ukrainian president says

Zoe Tidman
Wednesday 23 March 2022 14:52
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Evacuees escape from besieged city of Mariupol

Ukraine’s president has said around 100,000 civilians are trapped in the besieged city of Mariupol nearly a month into the Russian invasion.

Volodymyr Zelensky told the nation on Tuesday these residents were living in “inhuman conditions” without food, medicine and water as they faced “constant shelling” from Vladimir Putin’s troops.

“We are trying to organise stable humanitarian corridors for Mariupol residents, but almost all of our attempts, unfortunately, are foiled by the Russian occupiers, by shelling or deliberate terror,” he said.

The Ukrainian president said more than 7,000 civilians managed to be evacuated from the industrial port city under siege on Tuesday.

But he said 100,000 remained “under a full blockade” in Mariupol, where 430,000 residents lived before Russian invasion began on 24 February.

The city has been attacked during the war - which has included the bombing of a children’s and maternity hospital and a theatre where people had been sheltering.

An estimated 80 per cent of the city’s infrastructure has been destroyed in the first four weeks of the war.

Ukraine’s president estimates tens of thousands remained in Mariupol nearly a month into the invasion of Ukraine

The local council said intense Russian air strikes were turning it into the “ashes of a dead land” amid street fighting and bombardments.

On Wednesday, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister said nine humanitarian corridors had been agreed to evacuate stranded citizens across the country. But she signalled there was no agreement for Mariupol, saying residents would find transport in a nearby city instead.

While thousands have been able to flee in recent days, previous evacuation attempts have been abandonned with authorities accusing Russian troops of failing to respect an agreed truce.

Perched on the Sea of Azov, Mariupol is a crucial port for Ukraine and lies along a stretch of territory between Russia and Crimea.

The siege has cut the city off from the sea and allowed Russia to establish a land corridor to Crimea. It was not clear how much of the city Russia holds nearly a month into the invasion, with fleeing residents saying fighting continues street by street.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, Russian attacks destroyed a bridge in the ancient northern city of Chernihiv that had been critical for evacuations and aid deliveries, the regional governor said. Residents were also without clean water and gas for cooking and heating, according to city officials.

On Wednesday, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross travelled to Moscow for expected discussions with Russian officials on prisoners of war, the conduct of hostilities, aid delivery and other humanitarian issues.“The devastation caused by the conflict in recent weeks, as well as eight years of conflict in Donbas, has been vast,” Peter Maurer, the group’s president, said.

Additional reporting by agencies

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