‘They want to destroy everything!’ Head of the Polish Ukrainian Society in Mariupol tells TFN the harrowing reality of Russia’s war crimes
The streets of Mariupol are strewn with the legs, arms and other body parts of the victims of Russian bombs; dead bodies lie unmoved covered with a jacket or are hastily buried in temporary graves in back yards.
Thousands of the city’s residents have been expelled from the city to ‘filtration’ camps before being sent deep inside Russia.
Meanwhile, traitors give the coordinates of civilian targets to Russia, whose pilots then destroy in evident war crimes.
These harrowing details from the annihilation of the southern Ukrainian city were given to TFN in an interview with Andriy Ivashko, the head of the Polish Ukrainian Society in Mariupol.
The siege of Mariupol has been underway for three weeks. There is little food and access to water is disappearing as the winter snow melts.
Several attempts to evacuate civilians have failed amid claims Russia had bombed and shelled the escape routes.
The people spend most of their time in shelters and basements with no heating or electricity.
With difficulty even to charge a mobile phone and internet available at only a few points, news from the city is hard to come by.
Andrey Ivashko, who up to 2015 organised Polish cultural events in the port city, is now in Kraków but says that he has a lot of friends and family still in the city and is receiving reports and text messages.
He said: “They have been telling me terrible things that show that these attacks are undoubtedly war crimes against the civilian population.
“Russia is not following any of the rules of war, even rules that are followed everywhere to take the wounded and victims to safe places.
“This is not happening in Mariupol and shows that they are breaking all conventions.
“There are no large buildings that have not been damaged or destroyed. They are using every type of weapon, including ones from ships that are sitting off the coast,” he added.
He said that the rocket attacks by Grad, Uragan and Smersh missile systems do not stop at any time of day or night.
Around 300,000 people are believed to be trapped in the city with supplies running out and aid blocked from entering.
Latest reports have said that Russia is deporting residents to small towns as far away as Siberia and that people are even held in ‘filtration’ camps.
Filtration camps are not a new concept in Russia. It first opened them in 1994 in Chechnya, during the First Chechen War. Potential fighters captured by Russian soldiers were sent to them and survivors claim that they resembled concentration camps.
Ivashko said: “This has been confirmed from many sources, including from people who have managed to leave the city towards Berdyansk on foot.
“The Russians are splitting up families. They are taking away their Ukrainian passports and handing out papers that have no meaning.”
He said that some may have decided to leave towards Novoazovsk in the Donetsk People’s Republic next to the Russian border by their own volition.
“They are exhausted without food or water. They believe it might be safer there.”
Since the war began, authorities say at least 2,500 people have been killed in Mariupol although the true figure may be much higher.
Ivashko says that it is impossible to give the true figure of the number if dead.
“Some are lying on the streets without legs, there are body parts strewn around. Others are covered in coats or buried in backyards,” he said.
“I saw a photo of a list of streets with building numbers with info about how many from each address had been killed and how many were wounded.”
He related that one of his friends, a journalist, knew of a whole family who had died together in the same bed. They had huddled together in bed to keep warm as there is no heating and it is very cold at night.
Ivashko said that his wife’s family are still in the city and had last been seen by neighbours who managed to leave.
“My niece was supposed to give birth last Monday,” he said.
Despite the heroic stand of the defenders, Ivashko says that there are traitors in the city.
“I can’t deny that there are also people provide the Russians with coordinates of targets and then they send their bombs. It means therefore that the pilots who drop the bombs know exactly what the target is.”
Mariupol is a hugely important city for Russia’s war aims. If it falls, it would be the biggest city captured by Russia so far and would open up a land corridor from Russian-controlled Donbass to Crimea.
Heavy street fighting is taking place that brings to mind the Warsaw Uprising. The Russians recently managed to break through to the city centre but were pushed back by the defenders.
“They are very well organised and motivated soldiers. We are talking about the Azov Battalion, marines and National Guard,” Ivashko said.
Though their ammunition is running out, they are carrying out counter attacks and gaining supplies. Yesterday there were reports that the defenders managed to seize ammunition from a GRU unit.
“They will fight to the very end, he said.