Ukraine war: 'Everything is destroyed' - Refugees describe hell of Mariupol onslaught

·2-min read

In Ukraine there is no such thing as a safe passage.

And so, into a city where the air raid sirens wail several times a day, and into a car park where they had been expected for days, the sight of the three yellow buses brought relief all round.

They snaked through the last of so many checkpoints and into a security of sorts.

On board, 79 of the most vulnerable people from Mariupol.

Young and old, and with faces that displayed so many emotions, they clamber off. They had been inside the besieged city for eight weeks.

Among them, an old man called Mikhailo and his wife Maria.

Only when I got closer, I noticed he had tears rolling down his face. They have been witnesses to an awfulness that brings an old man to this.

Nearby, father and son Vladimir and Andrei Stefanov.

"The Soviet Union returned in an extremely bad way," Andrei told me.

And, as Russian President Vladimir Putin was declaring that the city was now in Russian control, a hint from them of what that looks like.

"Some Ukrainians are more Russians than the Russians are," Andrei said.

"They are Ukrainians brainwashed by propaganda. The true Ukrainians who are still there are trying to hide their emotions and not to talk much."

Inside the reception centre here in Zaporizhia they are fed. These are people who have lived in bunkers for weeks. They have with them all that they have left.

Welcoming them was Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukraine's deputy prime minister.

"How many people do you think are still stuck in Mariupol?" I asked her.

"At least 50,000 people who want to leave Mariupol," she said.

"I need to tell you that the mission is not accomplished. We opened the green corridor for thousands of people. And we expected at least 5,000 people. But we have only 79 people. This is what Russia does."

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Back outside and fed, Mikhailo thought he was ready to talk.

I asked if he could describe the situation inside the city. He paused. Then broke down again.

"I can't. Sorry. It's horrible. It's horrible. I am an old man but I am crying. Everything is destroyed. Sorry. These are the tears of an old man," he said.

"I have worked all my life, And now I am 65 and I am poor. We have no apartment. Nothing. Everything I have is with me."

As we spoke, the siren started again.

"There were no sirens [in Mariupol], only planes," he said. "Bombing, bombing, bombing. Artillery too. It's horrible."

He turned and walked away.

What now for Mikhailo? What now for everyone here. And everyone still there.

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