Ukraine: Situation in encircled city of Mariupol ‘critical’

Russia says city surrounded as Ukraine accuses Russian forces of deliberately preventing civilians from getting out.

A Ukrainian serviceman takes a photograph of a damaged church
A Ukrainian serviceman takes a photograph of a damaged church after shelling in a residential district in Mariupol, Ukraine [Evgeniy Maloletka/AP Photo]

Ukraine said on Friday the situation in the Black Sea port city of Mariupol was now “critical”, as Russian forces continued their bombing campaign across the country in places like Kharkiv and Dnipro.

Russia’s defence ministry was quoted by the Tass news agency as saying Mariupol was now completely surrounded, and Ukrainian officials accused Russia of deliberately preventing civilians from getting out and stopping humanitarian convoys from getting in.

Interior ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko expressed doubt that the latest attempt to deliver humanitarian aid to Mariupol would succeed, and a new effort to evacuate civilians appeared to have failed.

“The situation is critical,” Denysenko said.

A man walks with a bicycle in a street damaged by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine
A man walks with a bicycle in a street damaged by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine [Evgeniy Maloletka/AP Photo]

The city council said 1,582 civilians had been killed in Mariupol since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Russia denies targeting civilians in what it calls a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and unseat leaders it has called “neo-Nazis”.

Residents of Mariupol, a strategically important city of more than 400,000 in peacetime, have been without power or water for more than a week. Attempts to arrange a local ceasefire and safe passage out have failed, with each side blaming the other.

Officials in Mariupol said Russian shelling was relentless on Friday. Tass quoted the Russian defence ministry as saying all bridges and roads into Mariupol had been destroyed or mined by Ukrainian forces.

Three people were killed in an attack that demolished a hospital in Mariupol this week, Ukrainian officials said, and supplies have been running low for days.

Mayor Vadym Boychenko said Russian warplanes had targeted residential areas in the city “every 30 minutes” on Thursday, “killing civilians, the elderly, women and children”.

Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy accused Moscow of launching a “tank attack” targeting a humanitarian corridor to which he had dispatched a convoy to try to get food, water and medicine into the city.

On Wednesday, Zelenskyy and top Western officials also accused Russia of a “war crime” for the bombing of a children’s hospital that local officials said killed three people, including a young girl.

Among those trapped in Mariupol are 86 Turkish citizens, including 34 children, who are sheltering in a mosque, Ukrainian authorities said.

Russian air raids hit Dnipro

In the central city of Dnipro, the third-largest city in Ukraine and considered a relatively safe haven, three air raids killed at least one person on Friday, state emergency services said.

Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from near the area, said police had blocked access to the area, believed to be an industrial complex, as a search for unexploded ordnance was continuing.

“We do know that a heavy machinery factory was hit, along with what was described as a coal-enhancing factory and a third location next to the kindergarten,” Abdel-Hamid said.

Firefighters work next to a heavily damaged building following an airstrike in Dnipro, Ukraine
Firefighters work next to a heavily damaged building following an air raid, amid the continuing Russian invasion, in Novokodatsky district, Dnipro, Ukraine March 11, 2022 [State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Handout via Reuters]

Elsewhere, a care home for disabled people was hit in the village of Oskil, near Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, local officials said, although no casualties were reported.

Russia also announced the military airfields of Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk, in western Ukraine close to the Polish border, had been “put out of action”.

Local officials said four Ukrainian servicemen were killed in the attack.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies