Mariupol, a Ukrainian port city that became emblematic of the savagery of Russia’s military campaign, is now suffering deeply under Russian rule, according to the city’s mayor.
The city of 120,000 captive residents has no working sewage system or drinking water, the mayor, Vadym Boychenko, said in a Telegram post this week that described mountains of uncollected trash and a flood of garbage overrunning the streets. He expressed concern that Mariupol could be on the brink of a new disaster of disease, citing the spread of cholera and dysentery and noting frequent burials throughout the city.
Russia shelled the city ruthlessly almost from the first minute of its invasion, killing thousands of civilians and Ukrainian fighters. Then, in mid-May, Russian forces crushed the city’s last military resistance in the underground bunkers at a vast steel complex. This week, a Turkish cargo ship became the first to set sail from the Russian-occupied port.
The mayor’s report bodes ill for Sievierodonetsk, an industrial city in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, where weeks of battles and months of bombardment have forced the Ukrainian military to withdraw. As in Mariupol, buildings and infrastructure have been devastated. About 8,000 civilians remain in what is left of the city.
Petro Andriushchenko, an aide to Mayor Boychenko, and the Mariupol City Council update their Telegram feeds several times a day with news that often comes with photos and a message from the mayor. On Friday, along with the mayor’s bleak warning, there was celebratory news about the former residents of Mariupol starting new lives and finding new homes in Dnipro, and information about a support center in Khmelnytsky for displaced residents of Mariupol.
But most updates are of the grimmer variety. One recent Telegram post said that Mariupol State University had been destroyed by the Russians. Another post said the Russians were building fortifications disguised as residential buildings and suggested that they were preparing to use civilians as human shields in case of any future offensive from Ukraine’s Army.