Local authorities in the besieged city of Mariupol have denounced the existence of a large mass grave on the outskirts in which, they say, between 3,000 and 9,000 bodies may have been buried. As proof, they have shown images taken from a satellite by the technology company Maxar. The complaint comes while the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, claims “success”, as he said, in taking over the devastated city after more than a month and a half of siege, in which thousands of people are still trapped and the last great redoubt of Ukrainian fighters remains in the gigantic Azovstal plant.
The Azovstal plant, a Soviet fortress of underground tunnels for the Ukrainian resistance in MariupolRELATED
Maxar Technologies has released new satellite images which they indicate show more than 200 new graves. They show long rows of mounds of earth stretching out near the road from an existing cemetery in Mangush, about 20 kilometers from Mariupol. According to Maxar, the expansion began between March 23 and 26. The New York Times has analyzed the images and points out that the holes were dug for two weeks between March and April, while Russian forces were in control of the town.
“The occupants dug new trenches and filled them with corpses every day throughout the month of April. Our sources report that in such graves the bodies are placed in several layers”, the Mariupol City Council has said on Telegram, showing the images on its Telegram account, where it ensures that “the mass grave sector” in Mangush “is 20 times larger” than Bucha’s. “The occupants may have buried between 3,000 and 9,000 residents of Mariupol in the town of Mangush.”
Petro Andryushchenko, assistant to the mayor of Mariupol who is not speaking on behalf of the City Council, has said that if the length of the Bucha mass grave is 14 meters, “the mass grave for Mariupol residents in Mangush is 300 meters long. But it is twice as wide as Bucha.” “If we do not take into account the depth, the Mangush grave for the people of Mariupol is prepared for 3,000 people, minimum.”
Andryushchenko has explained that the bodies of the dead were supposedly taken away in trucks and dumped. “Most of the bodies are buried, they are in plastic bags. The burial is as follows: trucks and people arrive in military uniforms similar to those of Russia who simply overturn trucks to unload the bags with the dead in the ditches.
“Putin is destroying the Ukrainians. He has already killed tens of thousands of civilians in Mariupol. And this demands a strong reaction from the entire civilized world. Something has to stop the genocide”, denounced the mayor, Vadym Boychenko.
By mid-March, public services had buried some 5,000 people in various parts of Mariupol and the suburbs, according to the City Council, which has a conservative estimate that the total number of dead at the hands of the Russian military in Mariupol is about 22,000. The Ukrainian authorities have been accusing Russia for days of wanting to hide “the traces of its crimes” in the port city, besieged since the first days of the war.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk has announced that there will be no humanitarian corridors this Friday. In an interview with Sky News, has declared that, in total, 50,000 people want to leave and are still trapped in Mariupol, after only 79 people were able to leave in recent days in the first organized bus convoy. “The mission has not been accomplished. We opened a corridor for thousands of people. And we were expecting at least 5,000 people. But we only have 79 people. This is what Russia is doing.”
Russia requires Azovstal soldiers to show white flags
kyiv has demanded that a humanitarian corridor be opened to evict some 1,000 civilians and 500 wounded soldiers who, according to what they indicate, are taking refuge in the Ukrainian plant in Azovstal, the last great redoubt of the Mariupol combatants. Russia assures that it is willing to grant a “humanitarian pause” for the evacuation of soldiers who lay down their weapons and, they say, civilians who find themselves in the underground facilities of the plant. Surrender ultimatums have so far been ignored by kyiv.
The head of the National Defense Control Center, Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, has said such a corridor would begin once Ukrainian troops raise white flags around the Azovstal perimeter. “Should such signs be spotted anywhere at the Azovstal Metallurgical Plant, the Russian Armed Forces and Donetsk People’s Republic formations will immediately stop any armed action and provide a safe exit to the assembly places of humanitarian convoys. ”.
But kyiv has accused Moscow of opening corridors “only for the surrender” of the military. “There are runners to surrender. The Russians have opened them, but our forces do not want to surrender,” Vereshchuk says in a Telegram message. “There is something called a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians from the combat zone. This is what we need for Azovstal in order to evacuate women, children and the elderly. The Russians refuse to open a corridor for civilians, cynically pretending they don’t understand the difference between a corridor for the military to surrender and a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians.”
“They are knowingly and cynically blocking the release of Azovstal civilians, thus trying to put more pressure on our military,” said Vereshchuk, who announced on Friday that there will be no humanitarian corridors in the country.
This Thursday, Putin gave instructions to blockade the last great Ukrainian redoubt instead of sending his troops to the labyrinth of tunnels and bunkers of the Azovstal plant, built during the Soviet era. The move may indicate that Russia intends to hold the siege and wait for soldiers to surrender when they run out of food or ammunition at the Ukrainian factory that has captured world attention: one of Europe’s largest steelworks has It has been the scene of fierce fighting during the invasion and covers a huge area, more than 11 kilometers of buildings, furnaces, underground plants and railways, an environment described as a “fortress” that seems to be hindering Russian operations.
Ukraine has dismissed Moscow’s claims of “success” at Mariupol, saying Russia is “physically incapable” of taking the steelworks. US President Joe Biden has said it is “questionable” that Putin controls the city. “There is no proof yet that Mariupol has completely fallen.” The latest British intelligence report believes that Putin’s decision is intended to free up Russian forces to be deployed elsewhere in the east, in addition to avoiding “significant Russian casualties.”
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) thinks that Russian forces will try to starve out the remaining Ukrainian soldiers in the factory rather than clear it out through costly raids. However, he considers it unlikely that “reducing the pace of operations” will allow them to deploy significant combat power to support other offensive operations in the coming days and weeks in the east. He believes that the Russian forces involved in the battle of Mariupol are “severely damaged”.
It is unclear how many Ukrainian fighters the metallurgical plant houses. According to the Russian military, more than 2,000 remain there, a figure that cannot be independently verified. The forces in charge of defending Mariupol include marines, brigades and also the ultra-nationalist Azov Battalion. The Ukrainian president said that the number of Russian forces is six times higher. The supplies they have and how long they can last is anyone’s guess.
The fate of Mariupol is important for the development of the war. Located on the shores of the Sea of Azov, it is a strategic enclave between the annexed Crimea and the pro-Russian separatist territories of Donbas, in the industrial east. Its capture is believed to allow Russia to secure a land corridor between the two areas, deprive Ukraine of an important port and free up Russian troops for expansion of the offensive in Donbas. In this sense, it is believed that, with the capture of Mariupol, Putin would score a strategic victory after the failure of the offensive on kyiv.
An estimated 100,000 people remain in the city, out of a pre-war population of 450,000, trapped without food, water, heat or electricity, conditions that have been repeatedly described as “apocalyptic” and “hell”. Tens of thousands of civilians have managed to escape by their own means and at the risk of their lives, with kyiv repeatedly accusing Moscow of impeding attempts to launch an evacuation operation and deporting civilians against their will.