Putin turns Mariupol into a martyr city

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State in which the city of Mariupol has remained after the Russian bombing. / afp

The hell of the Ukrainian city is reminiscent of what other places suffered in the past such as Aleppo, Hiroshima or our Gernika, devastated by sieges and bombing

Mariupol’s tenacious and heroic resistance has lasted for almost three months. The Ukrainian port city fell for good on Friday night. It succumbed to merciless bombing, for days and nights, and has become part of the long list of martyr cities in the history of war infamies. Like Troy, Stalingrad, Leningrad, Aleppo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Warsaw, Grozny, Sarajevo, Beirut, Gernika… All monuments to an inexplicable, unspeakable terror, returned to the stone age.

Putin proclaimed the Russian “total victory” after the surrender of the last 591 fighters in the labyrinthine tunnels of the Azovstal steelworks, protagonists of a tooth and nail defense, to the last drop of blood. Brutality versus perseverance. The battle for “liberation” argued by the Russian president has cost between 5,000 and 10,000 lives.

Behind is a city in ruins, with streets strewn with corpses. Roadsides, parks and gardens became gallows. An apocalyptic landscape reminiscent of Stalingrad in 1943 after the Nazi withdrawal and depicts an endless battle, house by house, wounded by wounded, dead by dead… Today’s wars are not so different from the old ones.

Since the invaders cut off electricity, water and gas at the beginning of the assault on Mariupol in late February, the city has gone underground. Beneath the asphalt, in inhumane places, families with children or vulnerable elderly people clinging to their last chances of survival sought their habitat. Outside, death and war crimes reigned at the hands of soldiers with letters of marque, with more vodka than blood in their hearts and ready to take any life, to cut off the future of their fellow men, of whom they even express themselves in their same language.

The keys

Indescribable «Shoulders, parks and gardens became gallows. An apocalyptic landscape reminiscent of Stalingrad in 1943»

Volodymyr Zelensky «Victory will be very difficult, bloody, but it will definitely end through diplomacy»

Mariupol was an obsessive target for the Kremlin after the failed occupation attempt in 2014, the year in which the war really started and when the attack was repelled by Ukrainian forces. This time the Russians arrived with artillery, aviation and the firm will to reduce the city of 450,000 inhabitants to ashes. They have done. Tyrants are always obsessed with erasing from the maps the cities that resisted them, like Numancia. However, history remembers that devastated cities are not abandoned by their population and end up being built from scratch.

makeshift cemeteries

The streets of Mariupol are now a succession of rubble, burnt-out cars and makeshift cemeteries, as residents who managed to flee to Zaporizhia have described. “Not a single building is left standing. Everything is ruins », describes the young Vitali, who returned to the city this week to look for his grandmother, who always refused to leave, determined to defend the house from looters. «On the main avenue there is a succession of wooden tombs and unburied corpses. Everything they had told me has fallen short of what I have seen », he recounts.

“We have lost everything,” says Tamara, 56 years old and owner of a dejected look. “We had everything in life and everything was taken from us,” she sighs, remembering a house and a city that no longer exist. “The day we were able to leave, Mariúpol seemed 80% destroyed. Corpses were everywhere. We neighbors organized ourselves to go out in groups and bury them, but the explosions often made it impossible to do so », she adds.

The Russian Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, communicated to Putin “the end of the operation” of encirclement. kyiv had already ordered its soldiers hours before to lay down their arms to save their lives. Now they are prisoners hoping to become bargaining chips in a hypothetical exchange with captured Russian troops. Moscow and the Donbas separatists want to condemn them and some even dream of executing them. The Geneva Convention and the law of war do not apply as long as the weapons do not fall silent.

The takeover of the city is plagued by accusations of war crimes by kyiv and Western powers. Biden, whose administration freed up $40 billion intended to guarantee the supply of weapons and economic support to Ukraine, speaks openly of a genocide of civilians in Mariupol, perpetrated with brutality, massacres and indiscriminate attacks against defenseless people.

The mayor, Vadym Boichenko, denounces that the real number of fallen residents will never be known because the Russian troops have created mobile crematoria to incinerate the corpses and thus dispose of the evidence of their atrocities. “The Russians have turned all of Mariupol into an extermination camp. Unfortunately this is no longer Chechnya or Aleppo. It is the new Auschwitz”, according to Boichenko.

This Azov Sea city was key in Moscow’s strategy to conquer the east and south, with the aim of creating a corridor linking Odessa -and even Transnistria- with Russian territory. Like Mariupol, Rubizhne, Volnovakha, Severodonetsk have been destroyed… But there is hardly any news about these towns. The Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelenski, denounces that “they are trying to do the same with many other cities.” In any case, in his opinion, “the war will only end definitively through diplomacy.”

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