On March 13th, during his traditional Angelus prayer, Pope Francis spoke of Ukraine and the devastating events happening in Mariupol. The city, which carries the name of the Virgin Mary, has become a “martyred city of the heart-wrenching war” that is destroying Ukraine, he said.
There is no doubt that what’s happening in Mariupol is beyond barbaric, and while people around the globe watch the terrifying images of injured pregnant women, dead newborns, and demolished buildings that hide thousands of people cut off from water and food under their ruins, every day Mariupol continues to be a symbol of Ukrainian resistance,courage, and tragedy. Every new day brings new attacks and new victims. Every new day brings hope for the humanitarian corridors and the opportunity to evacuate civilians. Unfortunately, every day this hope is shattered by continuous shelling from the Russian side.
What is Mariupol?
Mariupol is a city in the southeastern part of Ukraine with 433,909 people. Its proximity to the north coast of the Sea of Azov makes it a critical target for Russian forces. It’s one of the largest and busiest ports in Ukraine.
Why does Russia want it?
Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 , a peninsula region that has been a part of Ukraine for 23 years and has always heavily depended on its connection with the mainland for water, electricity, food, and other resources, Russia has been struggling to supply those resources and has been looking for ways to create a land corridor between the mainland and the peninsula. Taking Mariupol, one of the largest ports in Ukraine, will finally give Russia the ability to build this land corridor and connect Crimea and the Russian-backed regions of Luhansk and Donetsk. Russian troops also occupied two other important towns near Azov, Melitopol and Berdyansk, and closed in on regional capital Zaporizhzhia from the south and southwest. The important Black Sea port of Kherson is currently under Russian occupationclashes are happening every day in Mykolaiv. This basically cuts off Ukraine from its sea access, leaving only Odesa and its small surrounding port towns.
What is Russia doing in Mariupol?
Committing war crimes. The inhumane, terroristic actions of the Russian army in Mariupol have already earned Putin an official condemnation as a war criminal. When the Russian invasion began on February 24th, Mariupol was one of the first cities to be seized due to its proximity to the Russian border. For over three weeks, Russian forces have been shelling the city nonstop, blocking humanitarian corridors to the city and cutting off electricity, heating, water, food, and medicine. The occupiers are preventing the safe evacuation of refugees andshooting at civilian cars with women and children who are risking their lives while trying to escape the city.
An airstrike by the Russian army on the maternity hospital in Mariupol killed 3 and injured 17. Truth Hounds, a team of human rights professionals, tarted documenting the evidence of this particular attack and collecting proof that this was a war crime planned by the Russian government.
A pregnant injured woman is being carried by the Ukrainian emergency employees.
Unfortunately neither she nor the baby were able to survive.
Another airstrike, this time on the Mariupol Drama Theater, where about a thousand civilians, mostly women and kids, were hiding from the constant shelling. What made this attack even more horrific were the two enormous signs saying “Children” drawn on the ground in front of and behind the building.
Mariupol Drama Theater.
Before and after.
It’s been reported by the government officials in Ukraine that thousands of Ukrainians have been deported to Russia at gunpoint. However, this information hasn’t been officially checked and confirmed by the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations yet.
With Ukraine going on week four of this horrific invasion from a “friendly” and “brotherly” neighbor, hundreds of thousands of people in Mariupol are staying in this besieged city, where almost every building has been bombed or hit by a missile; where bodies are laying on the streets, unable to be removed, identified, or buried due to constant shelling; where hundreds are hiding under the ruins of the drama theater and art school, with no food or water. The total number of those who’ve been killed in Mariupol is still unknown. The constant shelling makes it difficult to confirm the number. Mariupol officials have reported at least 2,300 killed so far. While we are trying to share this story with as many people around the world as possible, we also know that the majority of people in Mariupol have been completely cut off from the world and civilization, and haven’t been able to get in touch with their families or get online to understand what is actually happening. Living in complete terror, they are not even sure if the world even knows about them. They feel forgotten and left behind. So please, if you remember one Ukrainian city, remember the city of Mariupol.
If you want to learn more about what is happening in Mariupol, here is a story of the only international journalists left in Mariupol. They spent 20 days in the blockaded city documenting the siege by the Russian troops.
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