Vadym Boychenko, the mayor of Mariupol, said that Vladimir Putin’s troops had doubled the death toll of 10,000 civilians in two months in the two years that Germany occupied the now besieged city under Adolf Hitler.
Boychenko wrote in a Telegram message: “In two years, the Nazis killed 10,000 civilians in Mariupol. The Russian occupiers killed more than 20,000 residents of Mariupol in two months. More than 40,000 people were forcibly deported.
“This is one of the worst genocides against civilians in modern history. The Russian army is purposefully and mercilessly destroying our city and its inhabitants.”
The southern port city of Mariupol has been under constant bombardment since the beginning of the military conflict on 24 February.
Petro Andriushchenko, adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, this week accused Russian forces of firing their artillery into the exit zone of the Azovstal steelworks, the southernmost part of the southern city still in the hands of Ukrainian troops.
He claimed that the agreed humanitarian corridor was a “trap”.
Ukraine LIVE: ‘What stops us from attacking the UK?’ Putin Allies Encourage Attack
Just moments after announcing over loudspeakers that a green passage had been opened, Andriushchenko recalled, the Russians broke their promise outside the four-square-mile industrial plant, which served as a temporary home for about 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers and their families. families.
On Saturday, a group of about 25 civilians – including six children under the age of 14 – managed to leave the steel mill, becoming the first group to leave since Putin ordered the area to be cordoned off last week “so that a fly cannot pass”. .
Captain Svyatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, said the group had been “transferred to a suitable location and we expect them to be evacuated to Zaporizhzhia, in Ukrainian-controlled territory”.
Captain Palamar, who was among the Ukrainian soldiers trapped at the plant, said: “These are women and children. We hope these people go to their agreed destination.
“As of now, the rescue operation is underway, conducted by Azov’s military – we rescued civilians from under the rubble.”
Speaking in a video on the regiment’s Telegram channel, he added: “We hope this process will be extended and we will successfully evacuate all civilians.”
About 1,000 civilians are still trapped inside the steel mill, and negotiations on freeing them are ongoing.
Meanwhile, according to Ukrainian Defense Ministry intelligence on Saturday, Moscow intends to continue air strikes on Mariupol, focusing on “blockade” units near the Azovstal steelworks.
Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, a spokesman for the ministry, said Russian forces were gradually increasing the intensity of their offensive in eastern Ukraine.
DON’T MISS IT
The most powerful tanks in the world ranked [ANALYSIS]
Main Weapons as Ukraine Fights Putin’s Troops [EXPLAINER]
Russia vs NATO: Tanks and Submarines Compared [INSIGHT]
In a briefing, he reported on “signs that the aggressor is preparing for an even greater activation of military actions”.
He added: “We are seeing signs that Russia is also building its cluster in the eastern operational zone… and is now increasing its desire to take as much Ukrainian territory as possible.”
Taking Mariupol would benefit Putin’s plans to seize the country’s entire southern coast, which would unite pro-Moscow breakaway regions such as rebel-held Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine with Crimea, which the Kremlin seized and annexed in eastern Ukraine. 2014.
It would also increase access to the breakaway Moldova region of Transnistria, which it is feared could be embroiled in the conflict soon.
A narrow strip of land squeezed between Moldova and Ukraine, the self-proclaimed republic of Transnistria, with a population of approximately 400,000 people seceded from Moldova in 1992 after a brief war.
Since then, some 1,500 Putin soldiers have been based there, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought back unwanted memories of the fighting in the early 1990s.
On Monday, the Transnistrian Interior Ministry said government buildings in the capital Tiraspol were hit by what appeared to be a grenade launcher attack.
In the following days, the ministry said that a radio tower that relayed Russian stations near the Ukrainian border was also hit by blasts.
Shots were also fired at a village housing a Russian weapons depot after drones flew over from Ukraine.