Under heavy shelling, Mariupol buries its dead on the side of the road

In the besieged city of Mariupol, people dig a grave
People dig a grave for victims killed during the Ukraine-Russia conflict on a street in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, March 20, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

March 20, 2022

MARIUPOL, Ukraine (Reuters) – Andrei is busy burying dead neighbors in a makeshift roadside grave across from a bombed-out block of flats. Natalia wonders if her own house is still standing while a family worries how long their dwindling food supplies can last.

Sunday is just another day of horror and confusion in Mariupol, the port city in eastern Ukraine that has seen some of the heaviest bombing and fighting since the Russian invasion began on February 24.

Andrei paused with his shovel and said the neighbors he’s burying weren’t killed by Russian shells or shells, but died of illnesses made worse by the tremendous stress of recent weeks after being denied medical attention could.

“The bombs didn’t kill them, but all of that… the situation — the basements, the lack of physical activity, the stress, the cold too,” he said.

Several bodies lay nearby, wrapped in dirty blankets. Some people trudged by with their belongings in plastic bags or boxes. A boy pushed a shopping cart past a bombed car.

Andrei said he and his friends were ordered by the Ukrainian military to store the bodies in cold cellars, but these were already filled with people seeking shelter from Russian artillery and rocket attacks.

“I hope there will be some kind of reburial and it’s only temporary,” he added, pointing to the hole in the ground.


Around 400,000 people have been trapped in the strategic Sea of ​​Azov port city for more than two weeks without access to water, food, heating or electricity, local authorities say.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Saturday the Russian siege of Mariupol was “a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come”.

The Russian Defense Ministry on Sunday blamed “Ukrainian nationalists” for the “humanitarian disaster” in Mariupol and gave the city until the early hours of Monday to surrender. In the last three days, 59,000 people have been evacuated from Mariupol, the TASS news agency reported.

Irina Chernenko, a university librarian who sits in a basement that has been her home for 11 days, said she doesn’t know how much longer they can survive like this.

“We hope for the best – to live as humans. The block of flats is destroyed, everything is destroyed. Where can we go from the basement?” she said.

“We cook by the fire. Right now we have some food and some firewood. In a week we have nothing, no food at all.”

Some parts of the city are controlled by Russian forces and some remain under Ukrainian control, so residents don’t know about the fate of relatives living in other districts.

Natalia, a kindergarten worker, said she lives with her children and cannot return to her own apartment across town.

“There is no news, no information. Everything is ruined… We don’t know how we’re going to live now.”

(Writing by Gareth Jones; Editing by Hugh Lawson) Under heavy shelling, Mariupol buries its dead on the side of the road

Bobby Allyn

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