Despite appalling conditions at the Azovstal steel mill, the last foothold of the Ukrainian army in the important port city of Mariupol, civilians continue to arrive seeking shelter from Russia’s offensive, according to fighters there.
maj. Serhiy Volyna, the acting commander of a Ukrainian naval unit defending the plant, told The Times in a telephone interview on Friday that there were few places left in the city where residents could flee.
“There are several shelters that were used by civilians and that have been destroyed,” he said. “These people are coming to us.”
Russia views the capture of Mariupol as crucial to its goal of securing a land bridge along southern Ukraine to connect Crimea to the Donbas, and its forces have relentlessly shelled the factory. The factory has become the last refuge for thousands of detained Ukrainian fighters and civilians. Attempts to establish safe evacuation corridors have been repeatedly thwarted by Russia’s continued shelling, and food is running low.
In recent days, Ukrainian troops near the steel complex have posted videos on social media drawing attention to the dire situation there for civilians seeking refuge, especially women and children.
That civilians still seek refuge there – with no prospect of escape or rescue – testifies to what they must encounter elsewhere in the devastated city.
“The number of people is changing and increasing day by day,” said Major Volyna. “We have far exceeded the definition of a humanitarian catastrophe.”
SOURCE – www.nytimes.com