The mayor of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol said Monday his city was “in the hands of the occupiers” after a weekslong siege by Russian forces that flattened the city, left an unknown number of civilians dead and forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.
“Not everything is in our power,” said Vadym Boichenko, the pro-government mayor of Mariupol, in a live television interview. “Unfortunately, we are in the hands of the hands of the occupiers today.”
Boichenko called for a “complete evacuation” of the remaining population of Mariupol, which had a population of over 400,000 before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.
“According to our estimates, about 160,000 people are in the besieged city of Mariupol today, where it is impossible to live because there is no water, no electricity, no heat, no connection,” he said. “And it’s really scary.”
It was unclear if there was still active fighting inside the city.
Ukrainian officials have alleged that Russian forces have prevented humanitarian convoys from safely approaching or exiting the city. A pro-Russian separatist leader on Sunday said about 1,700 Mariupol residents were being “evacuated” daily from the city and its surroundings, but Ukrainian officials say the Russians have in fact been carrying out what they describe as the forcible deportation of thousands to Russia.
“We need a complete evacuation from Mariupol,” Boichenko said. “Our most important mission today is to save every life… And there are hopes that we will succeed. For example, there are 26 buses that have to go to Mariupol to evacuate, but unfortunately, they haven’t received permission to move. And this game is played every day. A cynical game like, ‘Yes, we are ready. You can drive there, but in fact it does not work. Our heroic drivers under the fire are trying to reach the places where Mariupol residents can be picked up, and they are waiting with the hope that they will have such an opportunity. But the Russian Federation has been playing with us since day one.”
Statistics released by Ukrainian officials on Sunday paint a grim picture of the result of weeks of shelling and urban combat in Mariupol.
According to those figures, 90% of residential buildings in the city were damaged, of which 60% were hit directly and 40% were destroyed.
Seven of the city’s hospitals — 90% of the city’s hospital capacity — were damaged, of which three were destroyed. Also damaged were three maternity hospitals (with one destroyed), seven institutes of higher education (with three destroyed), and 57 schools and 70 kindergartens, with 23 and 28 destroyed, respectively.
A number of factories were damaged and the city’s port sustained damage.
According to those official statistics, up to 140,000 people left the city before it was surrounded, and around 150,000 managed to leave during the blockade. During the height of the siege, around 170,000 people remained in the city, and Ukrainian officials claim 30,000 people from Mariupol were deported to Russia.