Convoy of Up to 1,000 Cars Leaves Ukrainian City of Mariupol
Many who arrived in the Ukraine-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia on Sunday say they left at night, taking “secret detours” to avoid Russian checkpoints and fearing every moment of the journey. They told of blinding fear living under constant bombardment and of hastily buried family members they left behind, and what was for many a tough decision to finally flee. “We barely made it, there were lots of elderly people among us,” 74-year-old Nikolai Pavlo, who had been hiding in his basement with scant supplies for weeks, told Reuters. “the trip was devastating. But it was worth it.”
Another resident, 63-year-old Iryna Petrenko waited in the city until her 92-year-old mother who she was caring for died. “We buried her next to her house, because there was nowhere to bury anyone,” she told Reuters.
Russia now controls much of the strategic port city while fierce fighting continues for control of the Azovstal steel works factory, where an untold number of soldiers, civilians and dead have been trapped for weeks.
The evacuation of Mariupol 80 days into the brutal war comes as the battleground shifts with Ukrainian troops making major advances in the north, especially in and around Kharkiv, which had taken the brunt of Russia’s attack in the early days of the invasion. Supply lines have been cut to Russian troops trying to make gains in the eastern Donetsk region, according to CNN.
But as Russian troops retreat from areas they held, they leave a wake of abhorrent atrocities that will surely constitute war crimes. Near Kharkiv, civilian corpses show signs of unthinkable torture as Russian losses pile up. The British Defence Ministry estimates that Russia has lost a third of its ground forces since the invasion began February 24, but that “under the current conditions, Russia is unlikely to dramatically accelerate its rate of advance over the next 30 days.”
While the battle rages on the ground, diplomatic flashpoints continue. Finland—which declared independence from Russia in 1917—said Sunday it would apply to join NATO despite Russian President Vladimir Putin he “will be forced to take retaliatory steps” to “stop the threats to its national security.”