In the Ukrainian city, cut off from the world and beaten by the Russian army, it is “very difficult to count the dead”, reports a popularly elected municipal official.
More than ten days after the bombing of the Mariupol Theater, the fate of the hundreds of civilians who had sought refuge there is still unknown: Errors in communication and the absence of local authorities make the mission almost impossible, an elected municipal official from AFP explained to AFP. this port in southeastern Ukraine besieged by Russian forces.
The balance is uncertain
Katerina Sukhomlynova, who managed to escape from the city on the same day as this bombing, on March 16, also thought that the city should have been better prepared for the war, in a telephone interview from Ivano-Frankivsk, in western Ukraine, where she fled with his daughter and two nieces. Mariupol City Hall said Friday, citing witnesses, that it feared about 300 people had died in the bombing of the theater, where hundreds of people had sought refuge. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told him on March 18 that more than 130 people had been rescued, without estimating the number of dead.
Katerina Sukhomlynova, who was in Mariupol as a volunteer as a first aid worker, stresses, however, that it is “very difficult to count the dead” and recalls that the fate of the 400 civilians who were at an art school was bombed on March 20. According to her, it is certain that the total death toll in her city, which has been besieged by Russian forces since the end of February, is much higher than the number of more than 2,000 killed so far, given by City Hall.
“Why do not we bury them?”
“There is no communication with Mariupol. There are networks from time to time in some places, it is difficult to pick up. And any manipulation with a phone is dangerous, it can be considered suspicious by both sides. You can not photograph anything,” she explains.When the war started, this select one was part of the teams that brought first aid to wounded civilians and transferred them to hospitals.But as the shelling increased, the task became increasingly difficult.The city’s left wide districts, the most affected, became cut off from the center and the transfer of the wounded became impossible.
In confirmation of other testimonies of civilians fleeing Mariupol, collected by AFP, the elect spoke of the corpses strewn in the streets and the trials of civilians buried in shelters, starving and forced to melt the snow to hydrate. “People shouted hysterically at me and asked ‘Why don’t we bury them?’ and I would say, ‘If I take care of the dead, the living will die whom I can help’ ”.
“It’s more than a humanitarian catastrophe, it’s much more frightening, people can not meet the most basic needs. There is no water, no electricity, no pipes (…) Getting the excrement out of the shelters is complicated, like fetching water from the wells, it is too risky under the bombs ”.
“Nothing was planned”
When it was still possible, she handed out leaflets to civilians to inform them of what was happening in the countryside and in the city. The lack of communication, which then set in, “summons the residents”, who can tell the residents that the capital Kiev has been taken and that they have been “abandoned”.
Kateryna Sukhomlynova also accuses the town hall of having “done nothing” to prepare Mariupol for war, while this strategic port on the Azov Sea has been on the front lines since 2014, the date of the start of the conflict between Kiev and Kiev. pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. “I insisted to the municipal council that we list the shelters and that we prepare the sanitary kits. No one listened to me, I was accused of causing panic. Nothing is planned for civil protection, “she says. She also assures that the mayor and his deputies left the city in early March, information passed on by other volunteers but not confirmed by an independent source.
Contacted by AFP, the spokesman for Mariupol’s mayor was unreachable.