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Corpses lie in the streets of Mariupol. Hungry people burst into stores in search of food and melt snow for water.
Thousands of people huddle in the basements, shivering to the sound of Russian shells hitting this strategic port city.
“Why shouldn’t I cry? Goma Janna asked as she wept by the light of an underground oil lamp, surrounded by women and children.
“I want my house, I want my job. I am so sad for the people and for the city, the children.
A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in this beleaguered city of 430,000, and Tuesday brought no relief: an attempt to evacuate civilians and deliver much-needed food, water and medicine through a designated safe corridor failed, with Ukrainian officials claiming Russian forces fired on the convoy before it reached the town.
Mariupol, which sits on the Sea of Azov, has been surrounded by Russian soldiers for days. He is, said Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, in a “catastrophic situation”.
“For days, as forces from Moscow besieged Ukrainian towns, attempts to create corridors to evacuate civilians safely failed amid continued fighting and objections to proposed routes.
Ukraine has rejected Moscow’s offers of corridors leading civilians to Russia or its ally Belarus.
The Russian military denied firing at convoys and accused the Ukrainian side of blocking evacuation efforts.
An evacuation appeared successful on Tuesday, with Vereshchuk saying 5,000 civilians, including 1,700 foreign students, had been evacuated via a safe corridor from Sumy, where night strikes killed 21 people, including two children. Mariupol authorities plan to start digging mass graves for all the dead, although the number is unclear.
The bombings have destroyed buildings and the city has no water, heating, working sewage system or telephone service. Theft has become widespread for food, clothing and even furniture, with locals referring to the practice as “getting a discount”. Some inhabitants are reduced to drawing water from streams.
With the electricity out, many people rely on their car radios for news, picking up news from stations broadcast from areas controlled by Russian forces or Russian-backed separatists.