The situation in the besieged port of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine has become “unlivable” since Russia launched its invasion in late February, the destroyed city’s mayor told AFP on Tuesday.
“We think that around 120,000 residents of the city have stayed behind. We have passed the point beyond a humanitarian disaster, because for the last 30 days, these people haven’t had heating, water - anything,” mayor Vadym Boichenko said.
Mariupol has been under siege from Russian forces for over a month, leaving the population to fend for themselves in conditions which have been denounced by the international community.
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Speaking with journalists in Zaporizhzhia, some 200 kilometers (124 miles) northwest of Mariupol, Boichenko said those who have remained behind despite persistent Russian shelling are experiencing dire conditions.
“It’s very important to evacuate them all. The situation for them is not dangerous, it is unlivable. We are trying to coordinate with different partners to get the entire population of Mariupol out,” he told AFP.
He said that since March 13 around 100,000 civilians have been removed from the city to safety.
The mayor said that Russian forces in the city were trying to convince residents they had been left to fend for themselves by Ukrainian officials.
“They are trying to make people believe that they have been abandoned and that the government is not doing anything to save them, send them help or try to evacuate them,” he told AFP.
Russian forces have “isolated and surrounded the town with their troops. Inhabitants are cut off from information from our government, they no longer have an internet connection,” he added.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has for days been trying to get a team to Mariupol to help provide safe passage for thousands of civilians seeking to leave.
Boichenko earlier this week told journalists that since Russian troops entered Ukraine, 90 percent of his city had been destroyed and 40 percent of Mariupol’s infrastructure could not be salvaged.
Mayor says situation in Mariupol ‘beyond humanitarian disaster’