More than a month into Russia’s war in Ukraine, Mariupol has been left decimated, as shown in photos from the port city that document the large-scale destruction caused by Moscow’s ongoing assault.
Before the war, Mariupol was the country’s 10th largest city, with a population of more than 430,000. Russian troops have besieged the southeastern city since the early days of the conflict and largely pulverized it — and top officials have repeatedly indicated it was about to fall, but Ukrainian forces stubbornly held on. In recent weeks, they holed up in a sprawling steel plant, and Russian forces pounded the industrial site and repeatedly issued ultimatums ordering the defenders to surrender.
Like other cities in Ukraine, it was a bustling modern metropolis filled with arts and culture. The Donetsk Regional Drama Theater, a few blocks north of the Sea of Azov in the city’s center, was one of its many landmarks.
But constant shelling by Russian forces — upwards of 50 to 100 airstrikes per day by land, air and sea — has forced hundreds of thousands to flee, Ukrainian officials say.
Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko recently called for the remaining population, which he estimated to be 160,000 people, to fully evacuate the besieged city. His office said this week that nearly 5,000 of the residents have been killed, including more than 200 children.
Those who have stayed are essentially trapped with no food, no drinking water and no electricity in an apocalyptic hellscape. According to one estimate, 80% to 90% of Mariupol’s buildings have been destroyed in the monthlong siege.
“There is nothing left there,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said last week. “Only ruins.”
Two weeks ago, the drama theater, which was being used as one of the main shelters in Mariupol, was bombed.
Ukrainian officials said Friday that they now believe as many as 300 people may have been killed in the attack. According to the United Nations, at least 1,189 civilian deaths, including those of more than 100 children, have been confirmed in Ukraine since Feb. 24, when Russia’s military invasion began, though U.N. officials caution that the actual death toll is likely to be much higher.
The conflict has also triggered one of the largest refugee waves in history, with the total number of people fleeing Ukraine approaching 4 million.
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