Authorities fight for the dead in Mariupol

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Authorities fight for the dead in Mariupol

LVIV, Ukraine — Two weeks of continuous assault by Russian forces has left some residents crushed to rubble, and others dying in freezing conditions without heat, food or clean water, officials in the besieged coastal city of Mariupol account for. Struggling are the numbers of the dead and missing.

Officially, 2,400 civilians killed in the city have been identified, but Pyotr Andryshchenko, an adviser to the city government, said he believed the toll was much higher.

“We have wrong statistics about civilians killed,” he said in an interview with Current Time, a radio station in Ukraine. He said the official figure represented a “small handful” of those killed and estimated the actual total could be as high as 20,000.

Later in a telephone interview with The New York Times, Mr Andryshchenko said 2,000 vehicles had managed to escape the city on Tuesday and another 2,000 were packed and ready to go. Officials told civilians that Russian soldiers were hoping to leave “all messengers and phones off the phone” if they tried to search them for signs of support for Ukrainian forces.

A battleground since the first hours of the battle, Mariupol is under an increasingly relentless onslaught that is taking an inexplicable toll. Ukrainian estimates for the number of civilians trapped in the city range from 200,000 to 400,000, the latest estimate being 300,000.

The region’s top official, Pavlo Kirilenko, who was its governor until martial law was declared, announced that the Russians were holding doctors and patients at the main intensive care hospital hostage. An estimated 400 people are inside.

“It is impossible to get out of the hospital,” Mr Kirilenko wrote on Telegram, citing a message from one of the facility’s staff. “They shoot hard, we sit in the basement. Vehicles have not been able to go to the hospital since two days. High-rise buildings are burning all around.”

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Plagued by Russian shelling, the city is overwhelmed with the wounded and dead. Videos shared on Telegram showed residents of the Cheryomushki neighborhood burying a body in a courtyard. Another video showed how locals had turned a post office building into a makeshift morgue, with “MORGUE” spray-painted in large Cyrillic letters on the outside of the building’s ground floor.

“Here, in this building in the New Post Office on Cheromushki, they pile up corpses, which they themselves will bury in the future,” a man can be heard saying in the video, which he posted on the Telegram channel Mariupol Now did.

According to a Telegram post by Mariupol City Council, Russian forces have dropped more than 100 bombs within the city limits, destroying almost all basic services, even those from Ukrainian forces on the outskirts of the metropolis. fight.

The Kremlin has said that it is the Ukrainian army that is trapping people in the city. The Ukrainian government says repeated attempts at mass evacuations have failed because they came under attack from Russian forces.

There is no completely safe route into or out of the city. According to international observers, the roads are clogged with landmines, and fighting rarely goes down.

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The Ukrainian military’s high command said on Tuesday that its forces had managed to thwart the latest Russian attempt to storm the city, claiming to have destroyed two tanks, seven infantry fighting vehicles and an armored personnel carrier. . “After the losses, the occupiers halted the offensive and withdrew,” the Ukrainian military said.

The Ukrainians noted that their army also suffered losses. It is impossible to independently verify almost any information from Mariupol, since almost all lines of communication have been disconnected.

Mr Andryshchenko, an adviser to the city government, declined to comment in his phone interview with The Times on whether he and the mayor would leave the city. The mayor’s safety will probably be of concern: Russian forces kidnap the mayor of nearby Melitopol and set up a replacement.

“We sincerely hope for the safety of our mayor and our defenders will help ensure this,” said Mr. Andryashchenko. “We know for certain that it will not accept Russian occupation under any circumstances, will not cooperate with the occupiers and will not recognize any occupation authority.”

But he did not even have words to think about the future of the city. They have estimated that 80 percent of the residential housing stock has been destroyed. “What kind of city could this be?”

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