Mariupol in ruins after weeks of fighting

despair and fatalism
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Mariupol is in ruins after weeks of fighting – people hardly see the future

Three months of siege and fighting have turned Mariupol into a ghost town. According to their own statements, now the Russian occupiers want to turn the formerly vibrant industrial and economic center on the Sea of ​​Azov into a coastal resort.

After weeks of bombing, the Ukrainian port of Mariupol is in ruins, and the last Ukrainian soldiers at the Azov steel mills surrender. According to their own statements, the Russian occupiers now want to turn the vibrant industrial and economic center on the Azov Sea into a seaside resort – a project that is hard to imagine amid the charred ruins. Even with few people on the streets, imagination is not enough. They see no future for themselves and their city.

Three months of siege and fighting have turned Mariupol into a ghost town. Hundreds of thousands of residents fled and many died. The roads are now almost exclusively for the Russian military and its separatist allies, AFP journalists said on a press trip organized by the Russian Defense Ministry. The media was not allowed near the huge steel plants in Azov, where the Ukrainian fighters put up fierce resistance to the end.

Weeks of shooting have stopped. The first residents dared to take to the streets again. However, there are few signs of relief or even optimism among them.

Not even Angela Kubiza: The 52-year-old former nurse breaks into tears when she recounts how she and her neighbors survived weeks without water and electricity. “She shared the children and grandchildren with a spoonful of food,” she says in typical Donbass Russian—and mourns the newborns who were “starved to death in maternity wards.”

Kubiza does not believe in her future in the Russian-controlled port city: “What should I say when the house is destroyed, when life is destroyed?” There’s not even anything to eat, and there’s no work, she says and added, “I hope nothing more.” Then it sped up in the face of a Russian military patrol and turned away.

Jelena Elena’s voice also breaks when she talks about her life. The former professor of computer science at Mariupol Technical University lost everything: her apartment burned down; She says that even the clothes she wears have been given to her by “sympathetic people”.

The 55-year-old, who is staying with her daughter and son-in-law, only wants one thing: to get her old life back. “I want to live in my apartment again, in peace, to go to work and just talk to my kids,” she says — and then she has to cry.

During the organized press tour, the Russian army will take the journalists to the city zoo. There they meet Oksana Krishtavoic, who is hired as a keeper of animals in exchange for food. Before the Russian attack on February 24, the 41-year-old was working as a cook in a restaurant she says was devastated. “Now they are my customers,” she says as she takes a bowl of food to the raccoons.

There is a shortage of everything in Mariupol, says Kristavoic. She then adds stoically: “We are used to it, we adapt to it. We are alive.”

Serge Bogach also had to change his career again. He worked at Azov Steel for 30 years, and in February he was just two months away from retiring. Now the 60-year-old works as a zookeeper. He does not know if he will receive his pension.

But he doesn’t want to complain. He assures that the Ukrainian people are working hard. As soon as the fighting stopped, people got out of the basements and looked for work. “Some are already working,” he adds proudly.

(zim/AFP)

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