“Normally Mariupol is under fire all day and night. Sometimes there is 30 minutes of silence, but then the city is under attack again [from] Tanks, artillery, multiple missiles and [aircraft] Like bombers and helicopters.”
The city lies along the stretch of coast linking the eastern region of Donbass with Crimea, both of which have been under Russian control since 2014. It appears that Russian forces are trying to take full control of the region to create a land corridor between two regions pressing on Mariupol with brutal military force.
Russia denied targeting civilians in Mariupol, blaming Ukrainian forces for the losses.
Prokopenko said that people in the city are now reluctant to leave their underground shelters even to get the necessities, which means they have been trying to drink less water and eat less food, but only go out to prepare hot meals.
“People are cooking food in the streets and risking their lives in light of the continued bombing and shelling,” the military commander said. “The temperature in the street is less than 5 degrees Celsius.”
Basic services such as gas, electricity and water, are all available in the city. Bodies are left on the street either because there is no one left to collect them, or simply too dangerous to try.
Prokopenko said no one knows the exact number of dead. “Some people were buried under destroyed buildings and buried alive,” he said.
The emergence of information about a massive attack three days ago on a theater in Mariupol used as a shelter has been slow.
Prokopenko said he believed the building, which also served as the city’s main humanitarian gathering station, was providing a temporary home for about 800 people when it was hit.
He earlier confirmed reports that the constant Russian artillery shelling made attempts to get the survivors out of the building very difficult.
Figures from several Ukrainian leaders, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, indicate that 130 people were rescued, among whom was seriously injured.
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