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Civilians face horror as Mariupol becomes Ukraine’s Alamo

Bodies littered the streets and Ukrainian troops on Wednesday rejected a Russian ultimatum to abandon what remains of the bombed Mariupol wasteland, with the last remaining defenders of the Donbass port city taking cover at a steel mill threatening to become a Ukrainian Alamo.

The last stand in Azovstal – a sprawling industrial complex to the east of the city – could be the last act of resistance in a city cut off and ravaged by air raids and artillery fire since the early days of the war.

“This is our final address to the world. It could be our last,” said Major Serhiy Volyna of Ukraine’s 36th Naval Brigade, who is known to be among the steel plant’s defenders, in a video message posted to Facebook on Wednesday. “We may only have a few days or even hours left.”

Volyna said he had 500 wounded soldiers with him in Azovstal, as well as hundreds of civilians, including women and children.

“This is our final address to the world.  It could be our last.” Major Serhiy Volyna of Ukraine's 36th Naval Brigade, who is known to be among the steel plant's defenders, said in a video message posted to Facebook on Wednesday
“This is our final address to the world. It could be our last,” Major Serhiy Volyna of Ukraine’s 36th Naval Brigade said in a video message posted to Facebook.
Facebook

In video from one of the bunkers, terrified young mothers can be seen rocking their babies while toddlers are wrapped in thick coats to protect them from the bitter cold, the Times of London reported.

“We get a little scared when they start shooting,” said a boy who appeared to be around 5 or 6 years old.

A young girl recalled surviving shelling in the early days of the invasion.

A view shows graves of civilians killed during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, April 19, 2022.
Graves of civilians killed during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, April 19, 2022.
REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

“I would like to find out if my grandmother and sister are okay, if they are still alive,” she said in the video.

The families are said to be among thousands hiding from the Russian bombardment in the massive metallurgical complex, which reportedly contains a network of tunnels.

Volyna estimated that Ukrainian forces were outnumbered tenfold.

“We appeal and ask all world leaders to help us,” he said, asking for deportation to a neutral country.

During the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 20
Smoke rises above the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, April 20, 2022.
REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

In an interview with the Washington Post, Volyna clarified that his troops – a selection of Ukrainian marines, guardsmen and far-right militiamen – would not lay down their arms as long as they continued to receive combat orders.

He said he didn’t believe Russia’s security promises if they surrendered.

“No one believes the Russians,” he told the newspaper.

Russia-backed separatists said just before 2:00 p.m. Wednesday to reveal that just five people in the devastated city had surrendered to enemy forces.

The situation for the estimated 100,000 civilians left behind in Mariupol remained grim.

A civilian's body lies on a bench in front of an apartment building damaged during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, April 19, 2022.
The body of a civilian lies on a bench in front of a damaged apartment building in Mariupol, Ukraine, April 19, 2022.
REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

Photos by the few western journalists who made it back to the city showed civilians using bicycles and shopping carts to haul what few belongings they could salvage while walking past pockmarked buildings and burned-out tanks.

According to Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the Mariupol mayor, Russian troops threatened to open fire on civilians who were not wearing a white armband to identify them as non-combatants.

“The occupiers are no longer suggesting that civilians wear white ribbons to identify themselves,” Andriushchenko wrote on Telegram. “They have turned to direct threats to open fire on anyone seen on the street without such tapes.”

“The Russians are gradually turning the city into a veritable ghetto for Ukrainians,” he added.

A service member of pro-Russian troops stands guard as evacuees wait before boarding a bus to leave the city during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port of Mariupol, Ukraine April 20, 2022.
A soldier of the pro-Russian forces stands guard as evacuees wait before boarding a bus to leave the city in Mariupol, Ukraine.
REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

Andriushchenko accused the Russians of violating their own proposed ceasefire for the surrender of Ukrainian troops on Tuesday and predicted they would do so again on Wednesday.

“Nothing new, all post-Orwellian: peace is war, liberty is slavery,” he wrote.

Video captured over the weekend shows bodies covered in bloodied sheets along city streets as civilians walked by. Other videos showed entire city blocks being destroyed and multi-story apartment buildings being reduced to rubble.

The city, a key port on the Sea of ​​Azov in the eastern Donbass region, has seen some of the war’s most brutal fighting and human rights abuses.

Local civilians go on Tuesday, April 19
Local civilians walk past a tank destroyed during heavy fighting in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol April 19, 2022.
AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov

Russian airstrikes hit a hospital maternity ward early in the war. A week later, about 300 people were killed when Russian troops bombed a theater used as civilian accommodation. The theater was marked with large letters that read “Children” in Russian.

In addition to the almost continuous bombardment, the city has been under siege for almost two months and has been cut off from electricity, water and utilities. The city’s unpowered morgues began to overflow early last month, and they began burying their dead in mass graves.

The Russian blockade has also restricted access to news.

“[The people in Mariupol] don’t have complete information at all because they don’t have internet,” Roman Skyliarov, a former resident of the city, told the BBC on Wednesday.

Skyliarov said his former neighbors are nervous about leaving the embattled port because “they think what’s happening in Mariupol [is] happens everywhere.”

Mayor Vadim Boychenko tried to allay those fears on social media.

“During those long and incredibly difficult days, you survived in inhumane conditions. They were in an information vacuum, with no access to information,” he told his citizens on Telegram. “Don’t be afraid and evacuate to Zaporozhye,” he said, referring to the Ukrainian-controlled city on the Dnipro River.

“Already 200,000 residents of Mariupol have been able to leave the country. Today those people are safe,” he said. “Dear Mariupol, Ukraine is waiting for you. We’re waiting for you.”

Mariupol City Council released video late Wednesday showing a long line of buses, some of which sport a Red Cross emblem. The buses are “ready to continue the evacuation of Mariupol,” the council said.

Russian military vehicles move on a highway in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatists near Mariupol, Ukraine, Monday, April 18, 2022.
Russian military vehicles move on a highway in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatists near Mariupol on April 18, 2022.
AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov

But just over an hour later, news broke that a humanitarian corridor intended for the evacuation had failed again.

“Unfortunately, today the Mariupol humanitarian corridor did not work as planned,” said Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Iryna Vereshchuk. “Due to the lack of control over their own military on the ground, the occupiers were unable to secure an appropriate ceasefire.”

“Tomorrow morning we will resume our efforts,” she said.

https://nypost.com/2022/04/20/civilians-face-horrors-as-mariupol-becomes-ukrainian-alamo/ Civilians face horror as Mariupol becomes Ukraine’s Alamo

JACLYN DIAZ

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