“Usually, Mariupol is under fire all day and night. Sometimes (it is) 30 minutes of silence, but then the city is under attack again (from) tanks, artillery, multiple missiles and (aircraft) like bombers and helicopters,” he said.
The city lies along the stretch of coast connecting the eastern region of Donbass with Crimea, both of which have been under Russian control since 2014. It appears that Russian forces are trying to take full control of the region to create a land corridor between two regions pressing on Mariupol with brutal military force.
Russia denied targeting civilians in Mariupol, blaming the losses on Ukrainian forces.
Prokopenko said that people in the city are now reluctant to leave their underground shelters even to get the necessities, which means they have been trying to drink less water and eat less food, but only go out to prepare hot meals.
“People are cooking food in the streets and risking their lives in light of the continued bombing and shelling,” the military commander said. “The temperature in the street is 5 degrees below zero.”
Basic services such as gas, electricity and water, are all available in the city. Bodies are left on the street either because there is no one left to collect them, or simply too dangerous to try.
Prokopenko said no one knows the exact number of dead. “Some people were buried under destroyed buildings and buried alive,” he said.
Information about a massive attack three days ago on a theater in Mariupol used as a shelter has been slow to emerge.
A picture taken by Maxar satellite imagery on Saturday shows that about two-thirds of the Mariupol Drama Theater is completely destroyed, and only the western facade remains.
The building, which served as the city’s main humanitarian gathering station, was providing a temporary home for 800 to 1,300 people when it was hit, according to local officials.
The Russian word for “children” is still visible in the picture drawn in large letters on the floor in front of the entrance.
He earlier confirmed reports that the constant Russian artillery shelling made attempts to get the survivors out of the building very difficult.
Communications in the besieged city have been difficult for days, and rescue work has been hampered by the danger of almost constant bombardment, according to reports from inside the city.
Initial reports indicated that many survivors had to extricate themselves from the rubble. Figures from several Ukrainian leaders, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, indicate that 130 people were rescued, among whom was seriously injured.
During a video call with Ukrainian Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko on Friday, Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini offered to help rebuild the Mariupol Drama Theatre.
Zelensky thanked Franceschini on Twitter on Wednesday, saying Italy “has set an example. Together we will rebuild the country to the last stone.”
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