(Mariupol) The charred bodies of buildings stand in the low, rainy sky of the martyred city of Mariupol. As the last Ukrainian defenders succumb to the Russians, a rare number of bystanders mourned their lost future.
Posted at 10:44 AM
Three months of fighting left a horrific scene in many neighbourhoods, displaced hundreds of thousands of residents and left an unknown, but undoubtedly enormous, number dead.
Here, the roads return to the Russian army and its separatist allies, which they conquered at the cost of destroying a coastal city whose population was more than half a million before the battle.
AFP journalists monitored the extent of the damage during a press visit organized by the Russian Defense Ministry.
On May 18 of this year, we no longer hear the incessant gunfire of the previous weeks, because at the crucifixion site in Azovstal the last Ukrainian soldiers surrendered. But the Russian army did not allow the media to approach the huge steel plant that has become a symbol of the fierce Ukrainian resistance.
The pro-Russian authorities promised to make Mariupol a resort town. A project that is hard to imagine in this tangle of sheet metal, debris, and rails of buildings destroyed by rockets and missiles.
With the fighting over, the residents dared to go out in search of food. Those who speak are showing their despair over this city that Moscow says it has “liberated” from the yoke of neo-Nazis.
“I wish no more”
Angela Kubica, her brown hair, rushes in front of a military patrol. She then responds to AFP in Russian tinged with a dialect characteristic of Ukraine’s Donetsk region, which Russia considers an independent republic.
“What do I still hope for? What do we say when a home is destroyed, and when a life is destroyed?” says the 52-year-old former childcare worker.
There is no work, no food, no water. With the kids, the grandson, we shared a spoonful of food, she continues, crying over newborns “who died of starvation in their mothers.”
What future? She concluded, before shedding tears and setting out again for a run.
Elena Elena, 55, worked as a professor at Mariupol Technical University in the Department of Information Technology. His apartment burned down, “there was nothing left.” She now lives with her daughter and son-in-law.
His only wish: to find his life before.
“I would like to be able to live in my apartment, in times of peace, to talk to my children,” she says. His voice is exploding.
Then the Russian army takes the journalists to the city zoo. Lions, bears and other monsters are standing there in gloomy cages, but they look healthy.
Oksana Krishtavovich, who used to work as a cook in a hotel in Mariupol, explains that she was recruited to take care of animals. At 41, a new life.
She feeds the cattle, milks the cows, and knows they are better off than others, because they are fed for this work.
“The restaurant I used to work at has been destroyed on the Left Bank. I was a cook there, and now my customers are them,” she says, holding a bowl in a raccoon cage.
Showing a modicum of optimism, she notes that if Mariupol “lacks everything, you get used to it, you adapt, you live.”
Sergey Bogach, 60, works at the zoo as a supervisor.
Before the fighting, he worked on the railways of the Azovstal Industrial Complex, which at that time was the main employer in the city, now largely destroyed.
At the end of February, when Russia launched its offensive, he had only two months before his retirement after 30 years of service. Now he does not know whether he will receive his pension.
But there is no point in complaining.
The Ukrainian people are not lazy. As soon as the shooting stopped, people got out of the basements and looked for work. Some are already working,” Sergey stated proudly.