Sergei Orlov, the deputy mayor of Mariupol, has detailed the scene in the besieged port city as Ukrainian officials try to help those still inside and evacuate civilians who have fled to surrounding areas.
“The city has been completely destroyed. City is like ruins… we are upset, not because of the infrastructure, but because of the people. So we don’t know how to help our citizens who are suffering in the city,” he said during an interview with DailyExpertNews’s Ana Cabrera. “Russia does not allow to solve humanitarian problems, transfer humanitarian aid and evacuate our citizens for many days.”
The official explained where things stand in the evacuation effort and the most recent mission to evacuate Mariupol civilians located in nearby areas.
“Again, I want to make it clear that there is no solution to reach Mariupol, nor humanitarian aid, nor to evacuate civilians,” Orlov noted. “We are talking about evacuating Mariupol citizens who are in Berdyansk, who are near Mariupol, the nearest villages … who reached Berdyansk itself, either by walking or by private cars. Many Mariupol citizens have themselves carried out the evacuation and it is about 30-50,000 Mariupol civilians who are currently in Berdyansk and the nearest villages.”
“So this mission helps us and made it possible to evacuate Mariupol civilians from Berdyansk to Zaporizhzhya. It is very good. It is absolutely necessary,” he said, noting that 45 buses were evacuated with more than 2,000 civilians, including 710 children.
With regard to those still in Mariupol, nutrition is one of the most pressing concerns, Orlov said, as aid groups, including the Red Cross, struggle to reach the city with food and supplies.
A team from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) traveling to Mariupol said on Friday they were unable to reach the besieged city to facilitate the safe passage of civilians. The team plans to try again on Saturday to make the journey to the besieged city.
“I can’t even describe in words what life is like in Mariupol,” he said. Citizens “cannot eat… [it’s] usual for us to have three dishes but three dishes a week. So we eat on Monday, Tuesday and Friday. So we can’t even eat much.”
Mariupol estimates that there are still more than 100,000 civilians in the city, all in hiding hoping to stay safe. The official said civilians live “like mice”.
“They all live underground in bomb shelters, in some areas below, so just to have the opportunity to survive, not to be killed by air strikes, by missiles or by shelling,” Orlov said. “They share some food, so typical food for a day is a glass of water with … one or two cakes, a glass of soup in the afternoon and also a glass of water and a cake in the evening.”
Orlov said reports of Russians forcibly taking residents, including children, are true.
“In the Mariupol area, I mainly mean the suburbs that Russia temporarily occupies. They are forcing people to evacuate from here and even deportation,” he said.
At a local hospital, Orlov, meanwhile, says there are as many as 2,000 children without parents, a reality that would not have existed before the invasion.
“Before the war, before February 24, we evacuated all children without parents to Ukraine-controlled territory… in Mariupol we had no children without parents. So if they somehow find 2000 children without parents, how is it possible? So it’s like their parents were killed by Russian, [or] they divorced them,” he added.
Watch the interview: