The important southeast city of Mariupol has now been completely taken over by Russian forces, according to its mayor, after weeks of siege and intense bombardment and fighting. Mayor Vadym Boichenko announced Monday that his city is “in the hands of the occupiers”.
“Not everything is in our power,” he said in a live television interview. “Unfortunately, we are in the hands of the occupiers today.” He then called for a total evacuation of all remaining Ukrainians from the city, which before the invasion was at 400,000 – but which some estimates now put at possibly just over 150,000 remaining.
“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,” Boichenko said. “And it’s really scary.”
Last week Russian ground forces reached the center of the city, where street-to-street fighting continued for days – thought it’s unclear Monday if this has continued.
While there have been previous short-lived intermittent humanitarian corridors set up for the evacuation of civilians, the Mariupol mayor urged a major new effort. “The situation in the city remains difficult. People are beyond the line of humanitarian catastrophe,” Boichenko said according to Reuters. “We need to completely evacuate Mariupol.”
“The Russian Federation is playing with us. We are in the hands of the invaders,” he stressed. Reuters detailed:
He said 26 buses were waiting to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, which normally has a population of about 400,000 people, but Russian forces had not agreed to give them safe passage. He did not say where they were waiting.
Boichenko described additionally that city’s drivers who are leading evacuation routes are coming under fire. “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,” he described.
Ukrainian government statements have estimated that up to 90% of all buildings, including residences, have been damaged or destroyed after weeks of heavy shelling.