Sunday Feb 05, 2023

People return to the streets of Mariupol


People are slowly starting to return to the streets of the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, pummelled by weeks of shelling from Russian forces and now fully under Russian control.

On Monday, local residents charged electric devices from generators and exchanged food and clothes at impromptu street markets, while at an empty bus station Russian state television blared out from a giant screen brought in by officials.

Lyuba, wearing sunglasses and a hat to protect from the sun, said she was charging her phone. She had decided not to leave the city, although her apartment had been damaged.

“There’s no electricity, no water – things are really tough, of course,” she said.

A man called Nikolai said he had also come to charge his phone, as there was no electricity available at the train station where he now lives. Neither gave family names.

Some residents could be seen collecting essential products in boxes emblazoned with the pro-Russian “Z” symbol.

Others had set up their own stalls to sell – or exchange – products, including vegetables and shoes. One woman – who did not give her name – said few products were left after looting plagued the city.

Russia seized full control of Mariupol earlier this month when more than 2400 Ukrainian fighters who had been holding out surrendered at the besieged Azovstal steelworks.

Moscow’s capture of Mariupol helped it secure full control of the Sea of Azov coast and create a land bridge linking mainland Russia to Crimea, which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has described Mariupol as “completely destroyed”, but Moscow has pledged to rebuild it.

Both sides have accused each other of targeting residential areas and ultimately being responsible for the charred, largely uninhabitable apartment blocks that now make up most of the city.

It is not known how many civilians remain.

Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on February 24 in what it called a “special operation” to demilitarise its southern neighbour.

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