By Orowo Victoria Ojieh
A day after Kyiv rejected Moscow’s demand to surrender, intense Russian airstrikes hit the besieged Ukraine port city of Mariupol on Tuesday, officials said. Two “super-powerful airstrikes bombs” rocked Mariupol on Tuesday as Ukrainian authorities made a fresh attempt at rescuing civilians from the besieged port city which has suffered relentless shelling since Russia’s invasion began almost a month ago.
The city council said the bombardments were turning Mariupol into the “ashes of a dead land”. More than 200,000 people are trapped in the city described by those who managed to escape as a “freezing hellscape riddled with dead bodies and destroyed buildings,” Human Rights Watch said, quoting figures provided by a local official.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk vowed to evacuate Mariupol inhabitants in a video address. “We know that there will not be enough space for everyone” on Tuesday, but “we will try to carry out the evacuation until we have gotten all the inhabitants of Mariupol out,” the Deputy Prime Minister vowed.
Two “super powerful bombs” slammed into the city even as rescue efforts were ongoing, said Mariupol local authorities, without giving an immediate toll.
“It is clear that the occupiers are not interested in the city of Mariupol, they want to raze it to the ground, to reduce it to ashes,” the authorities said. The governor of Donetsk region, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said street fighting was taking place there and civilians as well as Ukrainian troops were coming under Russian fire, The Trumpet gathered.
On the 27th day of war in Ukraine, the hardship of civilians in Mariupol, normally home to 400,000 people, grew ever more hopeless. Hundreds of thousands are believed to be trapped inside buildings, with no access to food, water, power or heat. “There is nothing left there,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a video address to Italy’s parliament.
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Deputy Mayor Sergei Orlov told CNN the city was under a full blockade and had received no humanitarian aid. “The city is under continuous bombing, from 50 bombs to 100 bombs Russian aircraft drops each day. A lot of death, a lot of crying, a lot of awful war crimes,” Orlov said. Mariupol has become the focus of the war that erupted on Feb. 24 when Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his troops over the border on what he calls a “special military operation” to demilitarise Ukraine and replace its pro-Western leadership.
Having failed to seize the capital Kyiv or any other major city with a swift offensive, Russian forces are waging a war of attrition that has reduced some urban areas to rubble and taken a huge civilian toll. The United Nations human rights office in Geneva said on Tuesday it had recorded 953 civilian deaths and 1,557 injured since the invasion.
The Kremlin denies targeting civilians. Western nations are gearing up to impose further sanctions on Russia to force it to reconsider its actions. They will also tighten existing measures, increasing Russia’s isolation from international trade and finance.
U.S. President Joe Biden will join other Western leaders for talks on Thursday in Brussels, where NATO and the European Union are based. Then he plans to travel to Poland, which has taken in some 2.1 million refugees from neighbouring Ukraine. U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Biden would announce measures to reduce Europe’s dependency on Russian gas – a major hurdle to the West’s efforts to isolate Moscow economically.
The leaders will also coordinate on the next phase of military assistance to Ukraine Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky turned to Pope Francis for help, urging the pontiff to mediate in the conflict and to help end “human suffering.”
Zelensky said all issues would be on the table if Russia’s Vladimir Putin agreed to direct talks to end the war, including the contested eastern regions Donbas and the annexed Crimea peninsula. But he warned his country would be “destroyed” before it surrenders. The Kremlin in return said it would like to see negotiations with Kyiv to be “more active and substantial.”