A cynical and destructive war against humanity is being waged by Russian fascist troops. This is a genocide committed against peaceful Mariupol by the Russian army led by the terrorist Putin. With these words, the city mayor Vadym Boychenko describes the destruction of Mariupol. Until February 23, 2022, together with the people of Mariupol, he planned to make the city a leader not only among Ukrainian, but also European cities.
As a result of Russian army’s attack with the use of all possible weapons, about 90% of the buildings of the once prosperous Mariupol have already been destroyed. The death toll mounting to 2,500 has been officially confirmed, and the actual number could be many times higher. As the aggressor is destroying rescue and city services, it is not yet possible to establish the true number of civilian casualties in peaceful homes and shelters. Ukraine and the civilized world will learn the truth about the scale of the Mariupol genocide only after the end of the war. At the same time, it is important to prevent Russia from tampering with the evidence of its crimes, and all international organizations, human rights defenders and leaders of civilized nations must give it all efforts.
It is no coincidence that Mariupol has become a victim of the war crime of Putin and Russia. The city with a population of 475,000 was a success story against the background of destroyed economic and human prospects in some areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions due to their Russian occupation. During the occupation of Donetsk and Luhansk, Mariupol remained a symbol and a practical example of the possibility to revive the entire region, and its seizure has been an obsession of Russia since 2014.
It is difficult to find any logic in the extermination of civilian population, but the destruction of Mariupol and large-scale war crimes were conscious.
Russia has already achieved its bloody goals through killing thousands of citizens, frontal destruction of housing and infrastructure, and large-scale displacement of civilians.
The destruction of Mariupol for Russia is:
- bloody demonstration of the futility of any resistance of Ukrainian Donbas to Russia’s announced plans to seize the entire territory of Donetsk and Luhansk regions;
- punishment of Mariupol residents for their unwillingness to become part of the depressed occupied territory, which they demonstrated during 2014–2022;
- depriving Ukraine of a significant part of industry, including metallurgy, budget and foreign exchange earnings, export potential and disrupting the integrity of the network of ports important for the economic development of the country;
- creation of a land corridor between Crimea and the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which Russia has been trying to obtain since 2014 for the transportation of goods and people.
The city of Mariupol with almost 500,000 citizens on the shores of the Sea of Azov is an industrial center of Ukraine, its key industry being metallurgy. The largest enterprises of the city include the Port of Mariupol, Illich Iron & Steel Works, Azov Shipyard, Magma, Azovstal, Azovintex, Azovmash, Metinvest-Promservice, and Satellite. More than 50 countries around the world buy products of Mariupol metallurgical plants. The city is home to one of the leading ports of Ukraine, the Port of Mariupol, which provides cargo transportation to dozens of countries.
As the case of Donetsk and Luhansk shows, there are no prospects for development in Russian-occupied territories, just as the occupier will not be able to use the economic potential of Mariupol to its advantage. Realizing this, Russia decided to simply destroy the city, solving other criminal problems.
With the beginning of the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022, Mariupol is on the verge of a humanitarian disaster: there is no light, no water and no food. People collect water from puddles and melt snow. Due to constant shelling, they are unable to go outside to cook food.
On March 9, Russian troops bombed a maternity and children’s hospital in Mariupol, where mothers with children were staying. Three people died, and later it became known that the woman from the famous photograph also died with her unborn child.
On March 10, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed that the Russian military had hit the maternity hospital by air strike, saying that the building had long been occupied by the Azov Battalion. The media also cite the words of the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, who said a few hours before the air strike that the medical institution housed national battalions.
On March 16, the occupiers deliberately destroyed the drama theater in the center of Mariupol, where hundreds of people were hiding, despite the fact that the word “CHILDREN” was written in large letters next to the theater. Debris blocked the entrance to the bomb shelter.
In addition, the Russians launched an air strike on a sports complex where only civilians were hiding, including pregnant women and women with children.
All attempts to evacuate people ended in shelling, and some residents were fleeing to neighboring regions being shelled by Grad launchers. On March 16, Russian occupation forces fired on a convoy of people heading from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia.
According to The Associated Press, Russia is using the so-called siege tactics in Mariupol. This was a popular military tactics in the Middle Ages that involved holding and destroying the population by starvation and violence to make it easier for the attacking forces to enter the city. Civilians were often doomed to a slow and painful death.
Putin has perfected this tactics over the years of his rule and warfare, first in the Chechen city of Grozny in 2000 and then in the Syrian city of Aleppo in 2016. He turned both of them into ruins.
The Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko noted that about 6,500 cars managed to leave the city.
“Right now, there is a terrible war that is taking away the most valuable things we have — our families and friends. And today, unfortunately, there’s only one word for this, the genocide of our nation, Ukrainian people. But I am sure that the day will come when we will raise our beautiful city of Mariupol from the ruins together. We will never forget those taken away by this terrible war and those who committed this terrible evil on our Ukrainian land. We are strong because we are Ukrainians. Everything will be Mariupol. Because Mariupol is Ukraine”, he said.
The rescued residents of Mariupol and the city administration have already demonstrated their desire and will to live and rebuild the community destroyed by Russia. Can the leaders of the world’s most powerful nations show the will to punish war criminals? This question is still open.
Prepared by the Civic Network OPORA
ANTS National Advocacy Interests Network