The Russian issued deadline for Mariupol authorities to surrender the city has now passed with Ukrainians rejecting the terms as a false choice.
The port city of Mariupol, which before the war was home to around 450,000 people, has been under near constant attack from Russian forces since early March with satellite images showing significant destruction to residential areas.
While the Russian ultimatum appeared to offer those who chose to surrender safe passage out of the city, it made no such guarantees for those remaining.
Russia has repeatedly been accused of targeting civilians, with trapped residents describing the onslaught as “hell.”
The Russian attacks have led to a total collapse in basic services — with residents unable to access gas, electricity or water. Bodies are being left in the street because there is either no one left to collect them, or it is simply too dangerous to try.
An official in the city said people are scared to leave their underground shelters even to get hold of essentials, meaning they were trying to drink less water and eat less food, only emerging to prepare hot meals.
Bombing of maternity hospital, theater: The city is increasingly bearing the brunt of Russia’s fierce assault on the country, with shelling day and night, said Major Denis Prokopenko, from the National Guard Azov Regiment. The assault has included deadly strikes on a maternity ward, and separate bombings of a theater and art school where hundreds of people were sheltering — the losses from which are still unknown as the rescue operations continue. The word “children” was spelled out on two sides of the theater before it was bombed, according to satellite images.
Civilians trapped: For weeks, Ukrainian officials have accused Russian forces of blocking evacuation corridors that would allow residents a safe escape from the city. Adviser to the mayor of Mariupol Petro Andrushenko said on his Telegram channel Sunday said people trying to flee the city in their cars were being shot at by Russian forces. The Ukrainian government said a relief convoy for the besieged city has repeatedly been blocked.
Taken against their will: On Sunday, the Mariupol City Council said residents are being taken to Russia against their will by Russian forces. 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 council said. Russia denied the accusations Saturday.
Why Russia wants to control Mariupol: The city is a strategic port that lies on a stretch of coast connecting the eastern region of Donbas with the Crimea peninsula, both of which have been under Russian control since 2014. Russian forces appear to be trying to take full control of the area to create a land corridor between the two regions, squeezing Mariupol with brutal military force.
“It is impossible to find words that could describe the level of cruelty and cynicism with which the Russian occupiers are destroying the civilian population of the Ukrainian city by the sea. Women, children, and the elderly remain in the enemy’s sights. These are completely unarmed peaceful people,” the Mariupol city council said last week.